I was 18 when I was diagnosed. I didn’t know much about HIV and I immediately thought Aids was inevitable and that my life would consist of a lonely and emotionally painful time before I would become a sick and dying young man.
That may have been true in the 1980s, but this was 2013, and after the initial panic I was eternally thankful to learn that my life would not be a death sentence, but a life sentence – a long and happy life sentence.
My thoughts on HIV were largely shaped from what I had seen in films like Philadelphia and Trainspotting. But surely, I must have learned something about HIV at school? Wrong.
Thinking back to my high school education, it is quite disheartening to realise that I didn’t learn a thing about it. My memories of sex and relationship education at school was listening to an embarrassed teacher talk about pregnancy, abortion and Chlamydia in a very superficial and ginger fashion.
When I put my hand up and asked, ‘What about anal sex?’ I expected a professional and engaging answer but I was met with a look of disgust and the awkward reply, ‘Well, we don’t recommend that.’ As an openly-gay 15-year-old in high school, that reply really did feel embarrassing.
I am now an activist for HIV awareness, writing regularly to try to educate people on the facts about the virus and trying to eliminate the stigma that still exists around the subject.