Judith 42, Straight, Auckland
I have never known how I got HIV. I got married when I was 23, and my husband was assassinated three years later. I came to New Zealand as a refugee, and like the other refugees I had to do a health screening at the Mangere Refugee Centre. It was there that I was told that I was HIV positive. I denied it at first, and repeated the test three times, and it was still positive.
A few years ago I decided I would be open about my HIV status. When I told some of my best friends about my status, they stopped coming around, and they told me that they had to warn everyone that I had HIV. They were not seeing me as their friend, they were seeing me as a dangerous person, and that hurt. They defined me as the virus, rather than the person that they knew.
The stigma is worse than the virus. You can live with the virus, the virus is manageable, but the stigma will kill you emotionally. I want to encourage everyone to talk about HIV; because that is the only way we can fight the stigma.
I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through. I want people to take the time, and talk about it when they are ready. But, it is also important to talk about it too, because not everyone is judgmental, and through talking about it you can find support. The more we talk about it, the less stigma there is, and that is how we can save people.