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Six Voices Part Five - MONDAY

In 2015 we sometimes forget about the impact that living with HIV can still have on a person’s life. Here is part five of a six-part series, describing what it is like to live with HIV in Perth in 2015.

IT"S MONDAY AND I AM WRITING MY COMINGS AND GOINGS FOR THE WEEK ON THE WHITEBOARD.

For Wednesday I wrote, RPH/Pharmacy should be in by lunch time. It dawned on me how lucky I was to be able to write that. To be so free and honest, knowing I would not be questioned or judged on why I was going to RPH (Royal Perth Hospital). I don’t have to lie or come up with a cover story, the staff knows I have HIV and on I’m on treatment.

The freedom this allows keeps my stress levels down. I appreciate this is not the norm. Most people experience discrimination or even just the fear of discrimination. I can be completely open; it is a relief that in my work place my health is not an issue.

I have my own cup at work just to make sure I don’t pick up any more bugs. I use swabs to wipe down the phone and my keyboard. Again this is my choice. I don’t want to be at risk of picking up a cold or anything else. This is my choice to keep me as healthy as possible, not because of discrimination.

We all know the law but it does not always apply. This is just one example of discrimination in past employment of when my HIV status had become known. They had a staff meeting where new policies and procedures were presented; this included a page on breast feeding and not sharing breast milk. It was nearly laughable if not so serious; besides the fact I wasn’t even pregnant did they think I was going to start to breast feed children in my care? It may not seem a big deal but I am happy to have the freedom I can write at RPH on the whiteboard.

The medication kept the virus at bay and I led a healthy life.

Instead I was forced to contend with myself, my perceived disfigurement and my own self-stigma.

My Mum says the hardness battles are the ones you have with yourself. She was right. My self-acceptance was the life-changing lesson.

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To minimise the impact and further transmission of HIV, other blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections. To reduce social, legal and policy barriers which prevent access to health information and effective support and prevention services.