My name is Paul, I’m in my forties and am gay and single. I was diagnosed HIV-positive in June 2002. My diagnosis was rather a shock but thankfully I have a wonderful family and very good close friends. Even so, coming to terms with the diagnosis took a while.

I came to terms with my diagnosis quite well I guess, but the thing that remains a concern to me is the negative stigma that HIV still has.

I was very fortunate that a year after my diagnosis I met a guy , we started dating and then about 6 weeks into seeing each other I felt I had to tell him about my HIV status. To say it was a difficult conversation to have and subsequently to still have is an understatement. Thankfully, he was educated and caring enough to say it did not matter to him … I was more to him than my HIV diagnosis.

Unfortunately a few years ago we split up and went our separate ways. Until then I’d never really had to find the need to disclose my status to people I didn’t know, but from then on I was starting to meet guys on a casual basis.

I have had different reactions when disclosing to people I’m HIV positive. Some are downright rude or just freak out, some don’t wish to know me. Thankfully not everyone is like that, and of course the people who are themselves HIV-positive are fine with it, but how do you know someone is in the “same boat”? Unless you have the conversation you don’t know, and when is it necessary to disclose my status anyway? It can be a contentious issue …

I went on medication in January, 2006, and within 6 months my viral load was undetectable. My latest test results were my best ever, with a CD4 count of 1061. I put this down to the care I receive from my hospital, and to keeping fit by going to the gym at least 3 times a week. I’ve also cut down on booze (though I do like the odd pint!), and try to eat well.

As my viral load is undetectable this means that the chance of me infecting somebody is very small. Non existent if I use condoms. even in the case of a condom accident.

I can’t help feeling that if my viral load is undetectable and I use condoms then do I really have to tell casual partners about my status? There are certainly many people out there who would be willing to have unprotected sex with me, don’t they have to take some responsibilities for their actions?

I have no real answers to the stigma that is still with HIV. All I know is that from a lifestyle point of view it does not effect me at all. Yes, once a day I take medication, and every four months I have to attend the clinic for bloods and then my results; but I look at this as my “MOT”, and I’m probably healthier than most men who are negative due to the excellent care I receive.

Everybody’s perception of HIV is different, and I still find it astounding how many people are uneducated about it. I believe that all gay men of whatever age owe it to themselves to get tested at least once a year: the sooner the diagnosis the better, and I consider myself to be very fortunate as my health care has been excellent.