Steven (41) thought he only had a strong flu

'It doesn't look good, the doctor said to me. I remember those words very well.' Steven (41) was diagnosed with HIV a few years ago, when he reported to the GGD (municipal health service) with extreme flu-like symptoms.

‘I thought I had a flu. That I just needed to let it run its course. But it was really
severe. After a few days, I started to think it was a bit odd. My temperature was
very high, I had no appetite and I did not have the energy to do anything.’
‘I called my ex, who told me that my symptoms might be a sign of an early HIV
infection. I’d had unprotected sex, so unfortunately there was good reason to
suspect HIV. I went straight to the GGD.’
‘It doesn't look good, the doctor said to me. I still remember those words very
well. I wanted to know right then what I could do about it. They told me I could
start treatment immediately and take part in a study at the hospital. I thought
that was a good idea because I wanted to do anything that might help.’
‘At first I was taking 3 pills a day, but a month later I only needed 1 pill a day.
Apart from a few weird dreams, I didn't have any side effects. I did feel really
tired but neither the doctors nor I could really pinpoint the cause. They suspected
that the acute infection may have been so intense, it had a long-lasting effect on
my body.’
Who to tell?
‘I understand you must feel terrible now, but you will get to a point where you
don't think about it anymore, the practitioner at the hospital told me. And he was
right. During the first year of my HIV infection, I had to learn to live with it. I had
to forgive myself. I thought I was really stupid to get HIV just before my 40
th! I’d had safe sex my whole life, except recently I hadn’t.’
‘Normally I keep my HIV status to myself. I hardly ever talk about it to anyone.
That could also be the reason I’ve struggled with it for so long. I have talked to
my ex about it, because he knew already, and to a friend who is also HIV-positive.
It helps me to talk to someone who is going through the same thing.’
Editor’s note
* Steven wished to remain anonymous, so we used a stock photo for his story.
Text: Arjan van Bijnen
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