As a heterosexual man living with HIV, personally the strong stereotyping of HIV and gay men comes as surprise to me but seems to be a common one. While statistically there are more gay men living with HIV in Sydney than straight people with HIV, the transmission of the virus isn’t based on your sexuality. HIV affects gay and straight people.
I have been positive for nearly 17 years and in eight of these while in Sydney. Recently I started to help run a social club for heterosexual people through Positive Life NSW. It was lovely to meet all the wonderful people and to hear their life story and experiences with HIV.
As the group grew and more people became involved, I realised that most of the group were mature people over 40 years of age. While the idea of the group was wonderful, it was not so exciting for me. A few older members at the social club mentioned that young people participate once or twice and then they stopped coming. I wondered why? Don’t we all like to hang around our own age group? Where are we finding social contact and support from our peers? I started to wonder how many young heterosexual people living with HIV would be living in Sydney. I wanted to find friends like myself to hang out with on a Friday or a Saturday night who understand and connect with my experiences.
Of course most of us have friends, but not many we can freely talk about our HIV. Questions like ‘Which medical centre do you go to?’ or ‘What meds are you taking?’ or ‘How have you found the new medication?’ These are all questions I’d like to find out from others in my age group while we’re sitting around at the pub or over a dinner just like any other young adult.
Most of the young people living with HIV I’ve spoken to (digitally or in person) have this huge thought in their mind. Oh my god I am going to be alone the rest of my life! With today’s medication of 1-2 pills a day, HIV is no longer a life-threatening disease. People are living longer and healthier with the new medications. Now the challenge is living a normal day-to-day life while the medication does its work on the side.
I feel young heterosexual people living with HIV are among the most isolated in the HIV community. This is pretty scary when you are young. I admire the leadership and organisation of gay men living with HIV and their ability to find friends and network amongst each other. I’d like to see a strong community of young heterosexual boys and girls where we feel comfortable.
If you know anyone who is heterosexual, young and lives with HIV let them know about our Under 35s group. If we build a community of friends together, who understand and are there each other, we’ll soon support and look out for each other.
And yes, there are young heterosexuals living with HIV here in Sydney!
For more details about social groups for heterosexual people living with HIV, call Positive Life NSW on (02) 9206 2177, 1800 245 677 (freecall) or email email@example.com
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