Jan 67, Straight, Southland
I was working in a private clinic as a phlebotomist, and I was taking blood tests from one of our HIV clients; he was a young man who I had been working with for about four years. It was an accident just waiting to happen really, because I was rushing him through because he wasn’t feeling too well. And that was it; in the blink of an eye I had a needle stick injury. I became HIV positive as a result.
I was lucky that I wasn’t treated any differently; my family and friends were very supportive. I think that because of the way I was infected I didn’t suffer from the stigma that often goes along with an HIV diagnosis.
The virus is a devastating thing to be dealing and to be living with. But the stigma itself is ten times worse. Because it’s the stigma that stops people dealing with the virus, it stops diagnosis and it stops people from getting treated. I’ve seen stigma destroy people, and destroy families. So I think the stigma is far worse than the virus, and the virus is bad enough.
My message to New Zealand around HIV would be to educate yourself about the virus, and understand the virus. You should also get to know people living with the virus, talk to them and let them teach you about what it is to be living with HIV, and get an understanding that there is nothing to fear from them. Modern medication is keeping us healthy and keeping us safe. I’m looking forward to a productive future with my husband, my children and my grandchildren.