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Neil

"I was diagnosed HIV+ when I was 19 or 20, I can’t really remember. I’m now 38. I struggled with the diagnosis and kept the information only to core family and friends. I was in denial and didn’t go onto medication but used drugs and alcohol to try to help me cope with it."

"But it got so bad that in January 2020 I had to check into rehab for four weeks. I work for a bank and they were incredibly supportive. They organized for a phased return to work after the rehab and time off to attend AA and NA meetings and after-care.

And then came COVID. I felt extremely anxious about going into the office and felt very vulnerable because of my HIV status. I had conversations with my boss and felt I had to be honest so told her I am HIV+. I had a good relationship with her and told her that I was very nervous about being able to keep myself safe. She dealt with it really well and kept the information to just the two of us. I started working from home earlier than any of my colleagues. My boss asked me what, if any, additional support I needed. And then she left.

With my new boss I initially felt that I really couldn’t be bothered to go through sharing all that information all over again. But then I thought by not doing so I’m simply playing into my shame of being HIV+. So I told her. Again, she was very supportive, asking what kind of support I needed.

At that point I reached out to Terrence Higgins Trust for support and they provided me with counseling which helped me to gain confidence in speaking out about my status.

At work, they introduced reverse mentoring where senior managers are exposed to a different reality by being paired up with a mentor at a more junior level. Being gay, HIV+ and living with a neurological condition and talking about my vulnerability with the senior manager I was mentoring helped encourage the organisation to reach out and offer support to colleagues in a similar position.

I’m part of the LGTBQ+ network at work. Internal Comms organized an event to mark World AIDS Day supported by key senior stakeholders last year and have also provided information on sexual health. I want to get more involved in organizing events for future World AIDS Days but I’m still not ready to speak openly about my HIV status."

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