I was one of the first in the UK to be diagnosed with HIV

I was one of the first in the UK to be diagnosed with HIV

The study ultimately discovered the drug had no impact on delaying Aids in HIV positive participants and recommended that people with HIV should be discouraged from taking the drug.

These were difficult times and there were still few treatment options available. We also had to contend with the infamous ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ campaign, which had instilled fear as opposed to giving information to those who needed it most.

There was however one bright aspect in all the dark and fear and that was the opening of HIV drop-in centres, the first being the Terrence Higgins Trust, started by friends of Terry Higgins, who was one of the early casualties of this dreadful epidemic.

In 1989 my CD4 T cell count dropped to 200 and I freaked. CD4 T cells are white blood cells that fight infection and a normal count sits between 500 to 1,600.

This was an Aids diagnosis.

I was offered anti-retroviral therapy (ART) but I wasn’t ready. I didn’t trust the medications having witnessed the whole AZT situation.

For a while I coped on antibiotics that kept pneumonia, shingles and herpes (caused by the common chicken pox virus) at bay.

But in 1996 my health gave out. Suddenly I felt like my virus had finally caught up with me after 14 years and the fears took hold again.

I was told I had to bite the bullet and start on ART.

After four weeks it was like I was a new person. I had boundless energy, so much so that I laid a patio outside my bedroom.

All was good for 12 months until I developed intolerable pains in my feet. I was then put on another drug, which made me constantly nauseous. I simply could not tolerate it so was taken off them and given a drug holiday.

I only had 70 T cells and viral load (the number of HIV viruses in the bloodstream) that was dangerously high at over a million. I had to start back on the medications.

These medicines, while literally difficult to swallow at times, have kept me alive.

Nowadays we have effective treatment, which means people can be HIV positive and have an undetectable viral load.

U =U. Undetectable equals untransmittable. If you are on effective treatment and are undetectable you can’t pass it on.

This is a truly important message.

There is also PrEP, which blocks HIV from surviving in the blood of the person taking it.

I still have to pinch myself when I see how far we have come in the treatment of HIV here in the UK and the developed world.

I have been very fortunate to witness the most extraordinary advancement of treatment options.

We may not have a vaccine to prevent the spread of HIV but we do have effective medication and the chance to limit its spread.

And all of this within 35 years of discovering that HIV leads to Aids – imagine what another 35 will bring.

MORE: We have the tools to stop HIV and the government must now use them

MORE: Finding out I had HIV in my fifth month of pregnancy changed my life for the better

MORE: The UK has met the UN’s targets in our fight against HIV – now we must aim for zero transmissions

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