My name is Jane and my HIV+ journey started in 2018.
I was a straight, cisgender 24-year-old woman who had just moved across the country to be with someone I loved. Unfortunately, I didn’t know they were using drugs at the time.
We were also expecting a baby together within the coming months. Life was full on.
Not long after our baby Henry was born, he became very sick. Henry had unusual breathing, weight issues, pale skin and many other unexpected symptoms for months. Some doctors didn’t believe me until it was almost too late.
While in hospital with Henry, it was discovered that he had pneumonia and infections in his brain. I was sat in a room full of different medical professionals and told that unfortunately Henry had HIV and that I would’ve passed it to him during the birthing process.
Initially I thought it was a joke, but I was then tested, and it was confirmed that I also had HIV.
We started on antiretroviral medication straight away and we spent months in hospital while Henry was recovering. During this time, Henry had another diagnosis of cerebral palsy as a direct result of the infection in his brain from having undiagnosed HIV.
We hadn’t even left the hospital before we first experienced the stigma associated with living with HIV. A hospital staff member was worried about us using the hydrotherapy pool because of our HIV status. We had to wait while they liaised with another hospital to see if it was safe for everyone else if we were to use the pool, which of course it was.
I was questioned by a nurse if I was Henry’s parent because of his HIV diagnosis as she didn’t think a straight, cisgender female would have HIV.
On a separate occasion, I was waiting for a procedure and upon seeing my HIV status the Doctor questioned, “So are you a drug user or are you a sex worker?” as if these were the only ways HIV was transmitted.
Thanks to modern medicine we no longer transmit the virus to others when on medication, as Undetectable equals Untransmittable.
Sadly though, even after 40 years of the virus, I wanted to share my story as people living with HIV still experience stigma and discrimination in many shapes and forms.