Michael 63, Gay, Auckland
I was at my daughter's place, and they were smoking marijuana. I had a smoke and fell off the balcony. I wasn’t well at the time, and when I fell I landed on my head, and was taken to hospital where they diagnosed me with pneumonia. I was in hospital for over a week when they tested me for HIV.
When I first found out I was angry. It took me about half an hour to admit to myself that it was my own fault that I got HIV. I’ve had HIV for five years. I’m quite happy with who I am and what I am.
People ask me, and I tell them that I carry HIV, and HIV lives with me, and all my family accept that. Some people stand off, but when my family is around they kiss me and hug me to let other people that they are not frightened of me. I’m still the same person; you won’t get it by touching me, or me kissing you. It takes a bit more than that.
Stigma is worse than the virus. The virus people can handle, you learn to live with it.
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have the problem – you have the problem. Because you need to learn to accept the way I am, because I’m no different, it’s just that I carry HIV.
The only way people are going to understand HIV is by talking about it, and explaining what you have to go through to get better. I can only talk about it on an individual basis, about what I’ve gone through, I can’t talk for someone else, because not all of us experience the same symptoms. A lot of people don’t like to be ostracized or condemned because of their HIV status.