My partner was recently diagnosed
My name is Scarlet and my recently partner had been ill for a couple of days, then he got worse with a rash all over his body, a 40 degree temperature, and I took him to A&E. A couple of days later, we got told he was HIV positive, well, he got told first, the doctor asked me to go out of the room. And then my partner was crying, and I immediately thought he was going to die, because he was really ill and he was placed in a room of his own. I thought it must have been very bad as he was isolated. Everything was a shock for me.
When he was first diagnosed many doctors came into the room. And all of them were saying, ‘we are so sorry about the news’. Nobody was like, I don’t know how to say, positive and my partner didn’t like this. Eventually, one doctor said ‘There is treatment available, you will be fine’, but nobody else said that during the first week.
They'd say 'Oh, there's support', and 'We're so sorry'. Just sad, very sad, and nobody cheered, or said 'Be positive, be strong!' That was quite depressing. My partner wished for someone to really encourage him. I think the initial shock would be less.
Coping with this news
The doctor brought us print outs from some websites, and we were up all night reading these, and watching videos of people living with HIV on YouTube. There was one YouTube channel, Face of HIV, where they were talking about their experience, and not only guys, but a different range of people, and it was different to what I thought before, and so seeing real people helped me a lot.
The most important thing was to get him on medication as soon as possible, but before that the doctors had to do all the tests and it took 2 weeks, and we just had to wait. This was quite hard because I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t sleep, I was just sitting beside his bed just reading stuff. I was in the room the whole time, helping, because he couldn’t eat and was quite weak. We would watch movies together just to spend time. I just couldn’t do anything. And I couldn’t say anything to my parents, they were worried about him, and about me because I wasn’t coming home, and I could only say he got some bad virus. I didn’t want to cry all the time, in front of him, and make him feel bad, so I had to always encourage him, and just help him to get through this fever. He was very ill, and I thought I have to be strong.
He had to tell his mum, in front of me and it was quite heart-breaking, because I didn’t want to tell his mum, not me, but she wanted to know what’s going on with him, is he going to die, and I am like, just speak to him, I’ll take you there.
What about me?
I had to get blood tests as well, because we thought I must have it too. I tried to speak to the guy who was taking my blood and I broke down crying, you know... Like, what if I have it, and is my partner going to be OK, because he is very ill now, and what can we do for him… But he was quite positive. He showed me the graph, that even if he gets to a low point, the low CD4 count, they will be able to bring it up. And he explained to me about the viral load, so that really helped me.
At the time, I thought 100% I’ve got it as well, if he has it and I have it then that’s life. So it was mixed, mixed feeling when I came back negative. I was happy, but I didn’t know what to say to him. And my partner said he didn’t want me to be HIV positive because he would feel guilty, but there was also a possibility that I passed it on to him. So for me it was good that I was negative, but overall it was mixed feelings.
One day we were using a condom, but it broke. I knew I could get PEP at A&E – it was mentioned to me at the hospital, but I also checked myself, because I wanted to protect myself. I had to get emergency contraception as well, and that made me feel sick for the first couple of days but altogether I had no side effects on PEP.
After that the doctor said it would be better for me to have a supply of PEP at home so that I don't need to go to A&E every time something happens. I have 3 days' worth of tablets now. If PrEP was available in Scotland, I would take it now, while waiting for my partner’s viral load to come down. It's for him as well. I don't want him to feel bad if he passes it to me, we want to do everything to prevent it.