I’m a guy who has just celebrated living with HIV for a year now (yes, you heard right folks..celebrated) and I’ve taken a secondment recently from my @hivpozguy handle on Twitter as a result.

Whilst twitter is an amazing source for a guy with HIV to speak with others that have this unfortunate virus, there too are its downsides when you see so much negativity on display. Article after blog after tweet of people moaning about having it; of the side effects associated with the cocktails of medication; the horrible dating experiences owing to HIV; and generally blaming anything going wrong in life on HIV – lack of sleep, colds, stomach problems, stigma issues.

I’m probably going to open a can of worms here to those reading this from the HIV community, but please, hear me out.

It made me wonder why don’t we have more voices out there telling us if there are any positives to living with HIV? If we are to battle the stigma of HIV, surely we’re discrediting ourselves, as well as those that came before us, when we dig that stigma hole even deeper with our cynical shovels by harping on about all the rubbish that having HIV brings?

Here’s an idea – what if we all decided to flip this on its head? – blog about our own rejoices at the prospect of being here, being alive; write articles giving credit to those that came before us; tweet to people the optimism we now face in the advancement of science and medicine; or write about how you ‘came out’ to colleagues/friends and what positive effect this had. Just show everyone that being positive is NOT so negative all the time!

I understand we live in a society that likes to moan and complain to each other – it’s a nice form of release, I get that – but amongst the HIV community on twitter, which is so public, this needs to stop or at the very least tone down a notch or few.

We need good news stories out there for those that have just joined our HIV ranks. Have a look at my own blog and you will see amongst my babbling ways that it is peppered with hope and good news about me. I get emails on a regular basis telling me how useful it has been from all walks of life. I am particularly touched when I see friends and family members of newly diagnosed people getting in touch to thank me, it helps them understand what their loved ones are going through.

So what are the positives I hear you ask? Well, here we go my intrigued one:-

• For a start, I know my status.. do you? Finding out is the first step for us all being healthier individuals. Only by knowing our status and being tested regularly can we all help in the fight against HIV.
• Life. Goes. On.
HIV is not a death sentence; we’re living near-normal life spans now. This will no doubt improve even more given the advances in medicine we’ve experienced over the past 3 decades.

• HIV is a kick up your backside to be the healthiest you can be alongside taking a few pills each day. I quit smoking, I quit drinking so much, and I got out there and I exercised, I entered cycling and running races for charities. None of this would’ve happened if it wasn’t for HIV. I’m now studying at University and my wedding is only just round the corner now. HIV has the power to transform you to try to become the best you can be.

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• Most of us are on 1-3 pill regimens a day. If anything, the pills introduce some organisation to the day. I never used to eat much in the evenings, but thanks to the pills, I do now and I eat healthier too (albeit for occasional takeaway or chocolate – sometimes it’s bad to be good and it’s good to be bad).

• As for the side effects of the medication, like anything out there – even throat lozenges – these come with potential side effects. Not everyone gets them. Those that experience any bad effects will naturally moan about them. If things are going right in life, we don’t tend to announce it so why would anyone out there say everything is a-okay with their medication? Well, I’m happy to report – no side effects from me and I’ve been taking my pills for a year now.

• Dating. Well I’m the kind of chap that is happy and content in or out of a relationship. It falls down to the individual, but love comes in many shapes and forms and it’s up to us to seek where we get that from – friends, family, a partner – these all have the ability to fill your cup up to the brim in different measures depending on the situation.

Living with HIV isn’t as bleak as one may expect. I hope this piece has enlightened, and it’s not my intention to detract from the seriousness of living with HIV at all. HIV is no laughing matter, but given how much the virus has grown up and changed, along with the successful battle we are putting up against it to date, I think our attitudes towards HIV need to change and evolve as a result.

This change can only start with those that live with it. I know that I will be refraining from moaning about it in future on my twitter account – I hope others follow suit.

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