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Young, straight and positive?
As a heterosexual man with HIV and positive for nearly 17 years (eight of these while in Sydney), I am here to tell you there are heterosexual people living with HIV in NSW! While statistically there are more gay men living with HIV in Sydney than positive straight people, the transmission of the virus isn’t based on your sexuality: HIV affects gay and straights alike.
In late 2015, I started to help run a social club for heterosexual people through Positive Life NSW. It was lovely to meet other people like myself living with HIV and to hear real-life stories and experiences. As the group grew and more people became involved, I realised that most were people over 40 years of age.
A few older members at the social club mentioned that young people participate once or twice and then stop coming. I wondered why? Where are young people finding social contact and support from their peers? I started to wonder how many young heterosexual people 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?”, “What meds are you taking?” or “How have you found the new medication?” These are all questions I’d like to discuss with 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 who I’ve spoken with have this huge thought in their mind: “Oh my God! I am going to be alone the rest of my life!” I feel young heterosexual people living with HIV are among the most isolated in the positive community. Although HIV is no longer a life-threating disease and people are living longer and healthier with the new medications, HIV can still be pretty scary when you’re young.
While I admire the leadership and organisation of gay men with HIV and their ability to find friends and networks, I’d love to see a strong community of young heterosexual boys and girls with HIV as well. If you know anyone who is young, heterosexual 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 for each other, we can support and look out for each other.
And yes, there are young heterosexuals living with HIV here in Sydney!
For more about the Under 35s social group, call Positive Life NSW on (02) 9206 2177 and ask for PT.