A gay man in England has seen one of his tweets going viral after announcing that he had just tested positive for HIV.
Henry, 26, tweets under the name @bloxhamboy1991.
Last week I was told I had tested positive for HIV. My world imploded and I felt like I had my future taken from me. In the days since I’ve felt every emotion known, I’ve scrubbed myself until I was red raw because I felt dirty. Today I had my first appt with my HIV doctor…
— Henry (@bloxhamboy1991) June 11, 2018
‘I’ve scrubbed myself until I was red raw because I felt dirty’
His twitter thread said the following.
‘Last week I was told I had tested positive for HIV. My world imploded and I felt like I had my future taken from me. In the days since I’ve felt every emotion known, I’ve scrubbed myself until I was red raw because I felt dirty. Today I had my first appt with my HIV doctor…
‘…and although things haven’t magically gotten better, I feel more positive. I know that with medication I’ll be able to live a long, normal(ish) life. I didn’t ask for this but I can deal with it and hopefully by speaking out, some good can come out of the bad…
‘… so if you do one thing this week I’d urge you to get tested. Know your status. Wear a condom. Use PrEP. Look after yourself and by proxy others too. I can’t change my diagnosis but I can use my voice to try and make a small difference.’
‘I regularly test’
Henry told GSN that his diagnosis had come as a huge shock.
‘I’d been admitted to hospital on Sunday evening with breathing issues and was told I had tested positive on the Wednesday.
‘I’d last been tested in November 2017, and I regularly test.’
Did he hesitate before deciding to announce the news online?
‘I took a couple of days to process what had happened and what I had to do and then realized that I could potentially help my twitter friends to stay safe if I spoke out,’ he says. ‘I’ve always been supportive of those with HIV and I know the only way to end stigma is by speaking out and being vocal.
‘So I tweeted my story and here we are. I hope this helps.’
At the moment, unlike countries such as the US and Australia, PrEP medication is not available in the UK. PrEP, usually taken as a daily pill, helps prevent people becoming HIV positive. The NHS is running a trial to determine its cost effectiveness.
Henry says he would have taken PrEP were it available.
‘I would have, and had asked my sexual health clinic about getting on the PrEP trials last year but there weren’t enough spaces.’
In response to a question posed by someone on Twitter about how he acquired the virus, he responded: ‘I believe it happened when a condom split during sex but I’ll never know for sure.’
His original tweet has now had hundreds of messages of support.
‘You’re amazing for being so brave on putting this up and not keeping it hidden. You’re exactly the same person as you were before, this doesn’t and won’t define you,’ said @glennzo21.
Another, @Westie_63, said: ‘In time HIV will become a very small part of you, it’s just a virus buddy. After 10 years of living with HIV I’ve met some amazing people, and you’re amazing.’
‘We need to move beyond outdated notions of HIV’
Matthew Hodson is Chief Executive of HIV information service NAM.
‘Fear and stigma discourage HIV testing, disempower people living with the virus and make people scared to discuss HIV with their sexual partners,’ he told GSN.‘We need to move beyond outdated notions of HIV. They only serve to hamper our prevention efforts and stir up HIV stigma.
‘We urgently need to end the limits to the numbers of people who can access PrEP. We know PrEP works. It needs to be available to all, otherwise we will see more cases, like Henry’s, where people know about PrEP, want it, but acquire HIV because it wasn’t available to them.’