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Marco (53) has HIV and he is perfectly healthy

Marco is the picture of health. The 53-year-old enterpreneur is passionate about sport and he feels fit and full of life. HIV hasn't changed any of that. 'It actually doesn't have any impact on my daily life.'

‘I've done a lot of sport all my life, and I still do. I'm a hockey fanatic and about 15 years ago I started bodybuilding. The combination of endurance sport and strength training, combined with a measured diet, means I’m extremely healthy. This is the way to stimulate your whole metabolism, meaning you sleep better, have a better appetite and more energy. On top of that, I've never smoked and I hardly ever drink. The result is I'm never really sick.’

High fever

When Marco suddenly did have severe flu symptoms, it was cause for alarm. ‘All of a sudden I had a very high fever, almost 41°, and it lasted for a few days. I felt more and more awful. I went to my doctor because it didn't go away. He did a number of tests, including an HIV test.’

The result of that test was positive. It was hardly a surprise for Marco. ‘In a sense it was a relief. I'd been taking risks for a while, so I knew what could happen. After a few days of sweating it out, I went to DC Klinieken for treatment. They arranged for me to get on medication. I also attended a series of their information evenings. These provided all kinds of practical and medical information about HIV. This helped me enormously; I am now fully informed about my condition.’

Minimal impact

‘During the information evenings, they told me it’s also good to talk to other people about HIV. But I don’t feel I need to. My partner knows of course, but no one else does. I don't want to be involved in emotional situations, or to hear other people’s grief about my condition. I’m not looking for sympathy and I don’t want to explain things to people who know nothing about HIV. That's not because I see my HIV as a kind of dark secret. It's just something that has very little impact on my life.’

‘It hasn't made me ill, I have no side effects from the medication and I keep myself healthy. My viral load was undetectable shortly after starting treatment; I had an extremely high CD4 cell count. (Immunity is expressed in CD4 cells per cubic meter of blood. Untreated HIV breaks down CD4 cells.) So despite the fact that I have a chronic illness, I'm still extremely healthy. That's probably because I live a very healthy life, but also because I acted quickly.’

N=N

The virus doesn't even affect his sex life. ‘I know that HIV is still a taboo subject for a lot of men, or that they are still afraid of it. When I go on dates, I tell them I'm using PrEP. That doesn't feel like a lie to me because my treatment means that both I and my sexual partner are genuinely protected against HIV transmission.’

 

Editor’s note
Marco wished to remain anonymous, so we used a stock photo for his story.
Text: Arjan van Bijnen
Stockfoto: Shutterstock
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