Client Story: Tom

Tom, a 48 year old now living in Watford.
Diagnosed: 2005

Tom said “I had a horrendous experience when I was first diagnosed with HIV in 2005. The doctor told me that the virus was so advanced that she didn’t even want to try treating me. She told me she thought the treatment wouldn’t work and it was too expensive! It was basically a death sentence.

I fought to have the treatment. It wasn’t long since my mother had passed away and I had siblings to think of. I wasn’t ready to die. A nurse, who was also in the consultation room at the time, helped to talk the doctor round and eventually she reluctantly agreed to put me on antiretroviral treatment.

I was determined to get well and the tablets worked wonders, I went from being very ill, with weight loss and vomiting to feeling much, much better. Within a month my viral load had diminished dramatically and I was even playing tennis!

Since then there have been ups and downs with my HIV, I couldn’t continue in my original job and I suffered periods of depression. I also experienced some physical symptoms like stomach cramps.

I went to Herts Aid and found them incredibly supportive. They were a sympathetic ear and introduced me to other people living with HIV so we could share experiences. It made a huge difference to be able to speak to someone who understood.

Herts Aid have also helped me with training courses to get me back into employment and I’m now working part time, helping other people living with HIV. I’ve also done a teacher training course and hope to become a teacher in future.

Although things are improving, I have faced stigma living with HIV. I’ve been refused treatment by a Dentist and treated badly by some health professionals. Many people still don’t understand HIV and like to apportion blame.
Herts Aid recently held a meeting of local councillors and health professionals where I stood up and told my story. It was daunting, but the more people that speak up and share their experiences, the more we’re able to tackle stigma.

I’m in a good place right now. I take just one tablet a day to control my HIV, I’m fitter than many people without the virus and I’m working towards an exciting new career.”