It Starts With Me

Growing up, I’m ashamed to admit I believed all of the rumours I had heard about HIV. I thought it was a death sentence and that people only got it from careless behaviour.

My perspective completely changed when I happened to be in a supermarket and was offered an HIV test by someone. She told me that everything I’d heard about HIV wasn’t true and that actually, you can live a long, healthy life with HIV. I was amazed to find out that if people living with HIV take their treatment as prescribed, they can’t pass it on to partners.

 I said yes to being tested, which took them by surprise. She explained that every single person she asked, apart from me, had said no to a test. I was tested using a self-test kit, which was simple to use like a lateral flow test for COVID. I got my negative result in just a few minutes.

Our health is not a place that we can afford to be ignorant – we have to do more to tackle the fear around HIV and sexual health tests.

I know this is easier said than done as stigmas are deep rooted. Faith leaders could play a vital role in starting conversations around HIV. Church leaders are so influential in our communities. The ideas they share with us have a huge impact on our beliefs and decisions. If churches made a conscious effort to observe awareness days like World AIDS Day, and encourage HIV testing – this could make such a difference in educating and influencing congregations.

The bible teaches love and understanding and as Christians we need to focus on this – especially when we hear about people going through hard times. Receiving an HIV diagnosis can be life-changing and support from the people around you is crucial in helping people come to terms with the news.

It’s sad to think there could be people in our congregations who are living with HIV but feel like they have to hide their HIV status. That’s supposed to be the place that’s your solace, and your sanctuary. God is all about tolerance, that’s why HIV negative Christians need to do everything we can to make people living with HIV feel welcome in religious spaces and to raise awareness about the reality of the virus today. We must love one and other as we want to be loved.

If someone tells you they are living with HIV, react the same way you would with any other medical condition – with compassion and acceptance. Respect their wishes and privacy and ask how they’d best like you to help them with this.

To anyone reading this, I urge you to test. Most HIV tests come back negative, but if it doesn’t, there’s support available to help you to process the change and medication to help you live a healthy life – that includes having children free from HIV. But the first step is getting it done.

When I had my first HIV test in my 20s, I was terrified for the result – but I thought to myself, ‘It’s better to know if I have HIV, because then I can do something about it. I knew that putting off getting tested would only make things worse and could lead to health complications.

 Order your free HIV test

Testing for HIV is now quick and easy. You can do it at home by ordering a free test kit now from startswithme.org.uk which will be posted through your door in plain packaging.

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