Gayle 52, Straight, Southland
I got HIV the old-fashioned way; I had unprotected sex. It was with somebody I had known ever since I’d been living in the UAE (United Arab Emirates). We finally got together, and things were really sweet and romantic. It only took that one night. I felt scared. I felt very ashamed.
I was 48 years old, I had three children that were grown up, so it was all wrong. My children, my family and my ex-husband were all really wonderful. Other people were not so wonderful.
The stigma is awful. I’m a single, middle-aged woman, so I’m not the person that people think is supposed to have HIV, and I do have HIV. I’m normal, I’m still romantic, I want to have a partner, so if you go on a date and you like the person and they like you, you have to tell them. So I just tell them, I don’t beat around the bush, and pretty much people run a mile immediately. And even if they don’t, I’ve had people making phone calls to other people about it.
I used to say to people that people think I’m a weapon of mass destruction, because that’s how it feels. The way people react makes you feel like a freak. I’ve heard people say ‘that’s dirty’ or ‘disgusting’ disease, people have said, ‘you’ve got the AIDS.’ People think that you’re going to die soon, and people think that you could make them die somehow, just being around them. I find that kind of bizarre.
My message to New Zealand is that people are people. New Zealand thinks it’s Godzone, but it’s a little bit closed-minded. We needed to accept each other and love each other.