Interviewer: How long have you been positive?
Client: 12 years, coming up to 13 years now. I think ’04, yeah beginning of ’04.
Interviewer: Tell me about your diagnosis experience, was it hard to get tested? Were there barriers to getting tested?
Client: I only found out because I was a regular donor at the Red Cross Blood Service. Then I get a phone call from the Sydney branch saying “We think you might be HIV positive, we need you to come in for a follow-up” and I thought well that’s my life finished.
Interviewer: So, they told you over the phone?
Client: Yeah from the blood bank, and that was February ’04, that still happens. And when I seroconverted (because I was working as a nurse) I was spiking 40+ temperatures, so I was taking Panadol and nothing was working. I went up to Wollongong Hospital ED, they tested me for everything but HIV and they couldn’t figure out why I was crook.
Interviewer: So, once you were told over the phone what happened then?
Client: I had to go and do a follow-up blood test at the blood bank, that was confirmed, so then they shuttled me off to the Albion St Clinic. I saw the doctor there, we talked about it, I can’t remember his name now but he was good about it. It was the first time I had heard that I would die of another illness but not HIV, maybe old age, maybe a heart attack, bad eating habits. Even back then it was still treatable. Kaletra and Combivir and that was a 2 x day dose, before they worked out how to make it one dose.
Interviewer: I wanted to ask what your experience has been not just as a positive person but as a heterosexual positive man
Client: I’ve got it so what. Just HIV positive, get over it. I’m positive about being positive, why aren’t you?
Interviewer: I’m just asking because it seems as though there are a lot of services for gay men, some for heterosexual women but heterosexual men seem to be skirted to the outside a bit.
Client: I originally hooked up with ACON here in the Illawarra, but when they closed up there wasn’t much left for us, outside of Pozhet at Redfern there was no input whatsoever. It’s isolated in that sense, I do feel isolated.
Interviewer: Is that partly the geographical side of it?
Client: In that sense it is, there is bugger all for us in the Illawarra since ACON shut down. Unless I hook up with the gay side again. There is a lot of people not only the Illawarra but further south as well that have no contact.
Interviewer: Are you in contact with any of those people?
Client: Not really, I just keep to myself. But I was told by a provider in Adelaide that there’s no S100 providers in the Murray Bridge area (south Australia), so if I lived there and needed to get prescriptions or regular blood tests I would need to travel an hour into Adelaide every 6 months basically. Because I know if I go to the local chemist in Illawarra they can order the medications in for me, I don’t have a problem with that. it’ll be even worse than the Illawara because obviously there’s a sexual health clinic.
Interviewer: What do you wish you had known when you were newly diagnosed?
Client: Better information about living with HIV. To be told outright you have HIV over the phone, and not given really much of a follow up or support until I had my second blood test, I didn’t know there were services in the Illawara or anything. I went to the Red Cross Blood Service in Sydney for a follow up and that came back positive and then I went to the Albion St Clinic.
Interviewer: How have you tackled the issue of disclosure?
Client: I just go for it. If they don’t need to know I don’t tell them but for me it’s part of the jigsaw puzzle, medical wise. But to me it’s not a big deal and so I just say by the way and just tell them. Obviously, some people, even people I work with have been ok, I’ve never had any negative feedback except for when I’ve been a customer of a service they provide.
Interviewer: Give an example of a service provider that has impressed you?
Client: My GP in Dapto, I started going to him after I was diagnosed and I told him and it’s never been a problem, it’s always good we always have a good vibe.
Interviewer: It seems as if you’ve had some luck with some good providers Have you had other good experiences with services?
Client: Yeah well I’ve been to the dentist and told them and its’ never been a problem and I’ve never gotten any bad feedback from them either.
Interviewer: How would you like service providers to speak to/ treat you/ approach you?
Client: Like anyone else. You’re not going to treat a person with cancer or diabetes any differently, I’m the same as anyone else.