Peter’s Story

The importance of friendship

Finding out

It was 1998 I had had hepC for 15 years but had never spent a day being sick from it. was at my local GP for a normal health check up and my doctor decided to do a blood test to check my hepC….

It was 7 days later when my nightmare started, I was on the methadone program and I was at the clinic to get my daily dose and there was a message to contact my GP. My GP couldn’t ring me as I didn’t have a telephone so knowing I was going to the clinic she left a message to contact her. When I rang my GP I knew something was wrong because I normally only got to talk to the person on the front desk. This time, when I rang I was put straight through to the doctor. I could tell in her voice that something was not right. In a soft voice she asked me to come in and have a talk so I made my way to her office. When I arrived at her office I didn’t wait in the front room I was taken out the back to a lounge room and a cup of coffee was made for me. Then my doctor sat down she said that she had some bad news but not to panic.

I thought she was going to tell me something was wrong with my hepC. I couldn’t believe what she said. In a soft voice she told me that my blood test had come back and I was HIV positive. At the time all I knew about HIV was that if you got it you were going to die. Also I thought I was the only heterosexual person that had it because I thought only gay people could get HIV. I knew that I could get it from sharing needles but I thought I would never catch it because I was very careful when I did share a needle and would bleach if I had to use one that someone else had used. But I found out the hard way why they say “never SHARE A NEEDLE”. As I sat there I could see her lips moving but I couldn’t hear her voice because the voice in my head blocked hers out. All I could think about was what I was going to do and what were people going to say.

Telling people

I also had in my mind what were people going to think of me.

At the time my family had written me off because my family was very “strictly no drugs” and in their minds once a user there was no recovery so my relationship with my family was none existent. But I had to tell someone so I rang my mother.
“BIG MISTAKE” when I rang my mother, I had to convince her to listen to me and not hang up which I managed to do, so I told her. Her reply was – I knew the chances I was taking drugs and using needles and now I was being punished so don’t come crying to her. So my fear of rejection had started, my family didn’t want to know me which I had expected but I thought if you had news like I had my mother would understand and support me. I started thinking if that’s how my mother took it – how would other people think about me.

So what I did was to decide not to tell anybody (not that you have to tell anybody) and to forget that I was positive. If I could just get on with life then it would go away.

For several months things went fine but I’d started seeing a lady friend and things started getting serious. My doctor had tried to tell me about HIV but I didn’t want to know as I just wanted to get on with life. The only thing that stuck in my head was if I was to have sex with someone and passed the virus onto them and didn’t tell them that I was positive I could go to jail. But I had to tell this woman I was seeing somehow so I asked my doctor what to do. Her advice was take my time and get all the information right or if I wanted she was willing to have a talk with my lady friend and let her know what the risks were. By this time I had convinced myself that whoever I told wouldn’t want to know me.

I spent a week thinking how I was going to tell her and then the night came. I ended up going out for tea and when we got back to my place I bit the bullet and told her. What I thought would happen happened! As soon as I said those 3 letters (HIV) I was punched in the face and she ran – I could hear her screaming 3 blocks away. Also she took it upon herself to tell everyone who knew me and friends started dropping off like flies.

Hiding away

The only thing I could think of was my life was over so I decided that I would move to a country town where no one knew me and start a life of isolation. At that time I didn’t know about groups like Pozhet. I wish I had known. After12 months in this country town not addressing my health I started getting sick and my hepC had started playing up. I ended up seeing a doctor who got me in to see a visiting HIV doctor. This shocked me because I thought I was the only person in the town with HIV!

When I saw this doctor I started anti retrovirals. I also had to get my hepC dealt with so I started the interferon treatment. I spent 48 weeks on the interferon and it worked. The Hep C virus was now undetectable. My CD4 and viral load improved but to me it didn’t matter because I still had HIV and no friends.

Everyday as I sat in this town all I wanted was a friend who understood what I was going through. The only thing good about being in the country town was I got clean from the heroin. But every day I thought my life was worthless and no one wanted to know me. For 6 years I sat in the town just myself and my pet cat. All I had to do was look and support was there but I just felt sorry for myself and worthless.

Making changes

One night it all came to a big halt, I decided that I wasn’t going to do this anymore. I added up what was good in my life and that added up to nothing. A strange thing happened! I just became very calm and prepared for the end.

I’m so glad I had my pet cat because if I didn’t have my pet I wouldn’t be writing this. What was strange was my cat jumped onto the coffee table and just stared at me. It’s if she knew I was about to do something stupid and when I was looking in her eyes I started wondering who would take care of her. I’m so grateful for my cat snapping me out of what I was going to do.

Because I had been a user I had destroyed my veins so no one could do blood tests in the town. My HIV doctor arranged a trip to Sydney to get all my tests done and when I was in St Vincent’s Hospital I had a chance to hear about the services that was here in Sydney. My doctor said to move back to Sydney because the life I was living in the country town was not living so I moved back to Sydney with the help of BGF which I’m very grateful to.

The second service I hooked up with was Pozhet, I also got an Ankali Buddy and I couldn’t believe that people volunteered their time to spend it with people with HIV. At first I was quite scared but I started going to workshops and meeting people and I seen I wasn’t the only person dealing with HIV.

My life has changed so much. My real family doesn’t want to know me but I feel blessed that I have one of the biggest families one could ever want now that I’m involved with all the services.

At a workshop I heard a saying that has stuck in my head “WE’RE POSITIVE SO BE POSITIVE” so now that’s how I live my life “I’M POSITIVE” about everything I do now and I have made some unbelievable lovely friendships with some very special people. I now think and this might sound strange but I’m glad I’m positive if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be looking after myself like I do and I wouldn’t of got to know all of the lovely people I consider my family now. I think a lot of you who read this will know who I am and I just want to let yous all know that I’m so proud to know every one of you and I thank you for all your support.

I want to say a special thank you to all the people at Pozhet, The Pozhet Social Club, the Tree Of Hope, BGF but the biggest thankyou has to go to my Ankali Buddy you has given me the strength I have today. I wish I could put your name in here because your name should be up in lights, “you’re an amazing person”.

So to end on a pleasant note – if you are reading and have just been told that you are positive, life doesn’t stop because we’re positive. There are people in the world that really care and life is worth “Living” but you need support and friends.

From a person that’s positive and loving life.