Time to take off the armour.

The decision to write this post and publicly disclose this information isn’t one that comes easily. No doubt I’ll be hovering over the post button for a long time before gathering the courage to actually take that leap… But here goes!

The reason I have decided to do this is to raise awareness and to broach a subject that just simply isn’t the usual topic of conversation amongst friends, partners or (for want of better phrasing) Mr/Miss Saturday Night. But maybe if enough people share their stories, attitudes will change and this could become a topic of conversation that doesn’t need to be had in hushed voices. 

So this is it, my armour is coming off.

The last few months have been an absolute roller-coaster of heavy drinking, denial, choked sobs and flurries of rage. 

But let’s have a bit of back story eh? At the beginning of what we call “summer” here in the UK, I started seeing someone. We really hit it off and started seeing each other when and where possible and things were going really really well. We’d known of each other awhile so things developed rather quickly between us.  

One night we were out in a local bar, I knew something was wrong but didn’t want to bring it up. On the walk back to my place he started to get upset. He kept apologizing again and again; it was all I could get out of him. I stopped him in the street, took his face in my hands and made him look at me. He kept apologizing again and again, tears in his eyes “You’re going to hate me… I’m sorry Tom” And that’s when it hit me. 

“Please… Please whatever it is that you’re about to tell me, do not tell me that you have HIV” 

He looked me, nodded and the world fell away. 

What happened over the next few months is a blur. We did stop seeing each other, not because of his status, but because he had lied to me. I arranged to see my local clinic to get tested. From here I learned as much as I could about the virus, so much so that I knew more that some nurses and my own GP, although that one’s not really much of a shock I guess… I realized how much medicine had advanced over the last 20 odd years and more surprisingly, how people’s attitudes had slowly changed over the years too. 

My friends and family were, quite simply, spectacular. I doubt I’d have made it through those few months nearly as well had they not been there to catch me the times that I allowed the panic to consume me. You all kept me smiling and laughing and I genuinely couldn’t put into words how much it means to me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Because of how much I had learned, and the support around me, the panic about the situation faded slowly, but still I was braced for the worst. So after the time it takes for the virus to show in your body I went back to the clinic. 

By now I’m sure you’ve realized where this is going? Yup, on the 19th of August 2014 I too was diagnosed as HIV+

My HIV status has now become as much a part of me as having blue eyes. I cannot change it, it is now part of me and I accept that. It is something that I point blank refuse to be ashamed of.

Believe it or not, every cloud really does have a silver lining and being diagnosed HIV+ has afforded me an amazing sense of clarity. After all, life truly is fleeting. You don’t get an extra life when it’s game over, so make sure you squeeze every single piece of wonder from the world whilst you can. 

If you don’t know much about the virus, please have a look at these websites below dedicated to promoting knowledge and raising awareness of HIV/AIDS as well as fighting the stigma that comes with it. These sites have been an absolute beacon to me over the last few months. 

I would also like to personally thank the editor in chief of Beyond Positive, Tom Hayes, for listening to me when all this kicked off. I didn’t think I could talk to anyone and somehow you gave me hope and I can’t thank you enough. 

The Stigma Project

Thanks for reading – Tom

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10 thoughts on “Time to take off the armour.”

  1. Tom – you are an amazing human being…. you are bringing a lot to the world through your own experiences. I admire your attitude and strength. Stunningly crystal like qualities come out of us in times of adversity, you are truly human AND firmly holding what it is to be human! keep going!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Tom
    I am a old friend and neighbor of your mom and the Griffins I just want to say you are a very strong brave young man. Keep strong, stay positive, you will come thru this. Best of luck in the future

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tom, I hope u r proud of yourself for writing this, cos u should be, it shows courage and strength. I love how u describe it as taking the armour off. This is very well written and puts some things in perspective. Life is short and most of us don’t realise the significance of our time here. Well done, all the best and stay strong x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Truly inspiring story….couldn’t even begin to imagine what this has been like for you…and admire your bravery for speaking out and trying to educate ppl…if this story can prevent even one person from ending up on the same journey it will all be worth it….stay strong and positive….you have an amazing family to support you x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It sounds like you’re finding ways to cope, and you’ve got some support for those moments when everything gets on top of you. If it’s any help, I was diagnosed a little over 14 years ago and attitudes towards it have never been an issue, even with my work colleagues

    Like

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