Don’t let the silence do the talking

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Today was a weird day.

I have grown incredibly attached (emotionally I guess) to someone lately. That was very unexpected for me. The guy has a boyfriend. We are friends. It was safe for me to grow fond of him because there wasn’t much at risk, or so I thought. I was kind of aware that we have been pretty inseparable and to date we have not had a fall out. A few disagreements – yes but a very symbiotic dynamic which gives full licence to both to pull the other up when he is misbehaving or making less than ideal choices. Until today…

He was pissed off with his boyfriend (rightly or wrongly) it isn’t my business nor my place to get involved. But it was incredibly uncomfortable for me to spend time in their company when my friend was giving his boyfriend the silent treatment. I had a bout of the giggles. Not because I thought it was funny or was belittling their situation but because I was nervous, anxious and uncomfortable.

I was suddenly reminded and almost transported back to my younger days and particularly my teens being subjected to my parent’s quite toxic and often vicious, damaging and destructive behaviour towards one another.

I pulled my usual ‘fixer’ moves of trying to cajole my friend into a brighter more jovial mood while it was just him and I and before his boyfriend returned to join us for dinner. Trying to make light of the tension and pandering to my friend’s mood. Hey! We’ve all been there! When we just want to make a retaliation of some sort to ease our rage. But my friend went on the proper silent treatment! Literally being asked a question and blanking the enquiring party.

I cannot tell you how utterly, cripplingly, uncomfortable this makes me. I then got caught in the crossfire of a scenario that was totally of my own creation but that I quite honestly did not see as an action that would cause offence or grievance. I borrowed my friend’s phone as my battery had died and I couldn’t be arsed to boot up the laptop. I took a selfie (for a reason) and tweeted it to me from his Twitter. No big deal right? Wrong!

When dinner had ended (I left the table early as the pregnant silences were far too laden in tension for me to bear) I went to the living room to DM said friend on Twitter to ask him if me doing his ironing would cheer him up and snap him out of his mood. Only to find myself blocked from his Twitter and unfriended on Facebook.

It literally felt like a punch in the stomach. An instant dull ache hit me in a really deep part of my gut. I was so confused. It later transpired (after a very heavy handed and unwarranted warning against sending further unauthorised tweets from his phone) that if I did that again I would be permanently blocked. Now usually most of you would expect me to fly into trademark ‘Greg Rage’ and tell him about himself. But instead I was so embarrassed and more so hurt that he would behave like that towards me that I just sat there and took the dressing down and looked at him hoping that he wouldn’t see the flash of red that was now burning my cheeks.

I am totally sure none of this was his intention and knowing that this upset me in this way will probably upset him too. But it made me think. Really think about the cycle of hurt we sometimes get caught up in and how previous emotional scars re-open to bleed even years later.

I spent 7 years with a partner who was irrationally angry and moody far too often and for prolonged periods. Most of these feelings he would direct at me, sometimes directly which wasn’t pleasant but more often passively. This guy (as much as I still love him) had the ability to lower the mood of our whole home without saying a word or without even being in the same room as me. He just had a way of hitting me where it hurt. It wasn’t nice and it broke me a lot more than I realised at the time. My friend’s actions and behaviour today (although nowhere near on the same level or with the same intentions) pulled me right back to that place in my life. I could almost physically feel my past and long since shelved pain and distress again and it freaked me out.

I’m guessing he behaved this way because of something from his past that has informed him to act this way. So I’m not judging him or criticising him. Merely observing that for whatever the reasons from both of our past experiences – today wasn’t a good day.

I am aware and reflective and open enough to notice these things in myself and question them but not everyone is. I was definitely in flight or fight mode as a result of today’s events. Instead I chose neither and opted for silence and avoiding eye contact or further interaction while my emotions settled. That is unusual for me. I’m glad that is what I opted for but the reason I wrote this and the thought that crystalised was this…

What if in these situation we did choose to fight or fly? What further damage does that create and how much does that compound the existing issues and give rise to a cluster of future issues until you have an emotional minefield of issues and triggers to navigate.

The answer and the solution seems quite simple to me. Just to sit down and talk, quietly and graciously. And while I say the solution seems quite simple, I mean that…in so far as the thought…the concept…now putting that into practice is a whole lot harder and takes some balls and some skills and also the knowledge that you are loved and supported and afforded the compassion to be allowed to say you’re pissed off about something or that perhaps you fucked up. That requires trust, kindness and bravery from all parties. Sometimes those things aren’t on offer or aren’t felt enough from and by each other.

I’m sure tomorrow will be a brighter day and I am glad I have somewhere to put my thoughts in order via these posts. That is also something that I find hugely beneficial and productive. Having to think about situations and my feelings in a little more detail in order to structure a decent sentence and blog piece allows me to tidy up my mind (and my heart). I recommend it.

x Continue reading “Don’t let the silence do the talking”

Protest of the Protest at Pride London

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Ok. I am not going to wade into this whole situation and involve myself in an ongoing back and forth as I am too busy actually working on a cohesive, focused and productive project for the provision of PrEP in the UK.

I will however make this statement and my opinion and position on this situation very clear!

I cannot support and will not condone this planned protest against Pride London.

I am so sick and tired of seeing sloppy protests for the sake of protest with no actual results. I question all of this. The intentions behind it, the drive to do it and the benefits (if any) to anyone.

This kind of ‘activism’ reminds me of puppies. You leave them alone in the house while you go to work and you come home to find they have shit all over the place. And they just sit there in the shit and mess and look at you. But that is puppies and they are cute and eventually they grow out of it.

Now that is not to say I am against protests. Far from it. But protests with a bit of focus and that get results.

When I see people ‘support’ or ‘protest’ a million causes I just shake my head! To me it just smacks of a lack of sincerity, a lack of authenticity, a lack of genuineness, a lack of personal identity, a lack of awareness and most of all a lack of focus.

And then I wonder why? Why are you doing this? I am looking on and just seeing these kinds of people pop up at this and that and post pictures of ‘look at me doing this’ or ‘look at me doing that’ – I am not fucking interested in YOU. You don’t need to try so hard!

I would much rather see your work and the results.

Let those speak for themselves. Get out of the way. YOU are not the important part of the equation. That is called ego. It is self-serving and self-indulgent and in fact it is the height of hypocrisy! Something you should be against.

As for protests. YES. Let’s protest like mad! I support protesting. I support it when it is needed. For example, for the jungle in Calais. Against neo-Nazi fascists. Calling out NHS England over PrEP. I use these 3 examples for a reason, if you physically can’t be in a place where people need our help or our actions then we should do all we can and protest here and where ever else we can and there in those places if we can get there. If you are faced with a group who want to literally kill you or an organisation that refuses to interact with you – you need to fucking protest.

You need to challenge this.

But your own community? For London Pride? Really? You think that is the right thing to do? An attack on a community event? YOUR community? That you are a part of? That you belong to? Is it not a much more positive thing to work with community members and leaders to actively create something that we are all proud of – together?

It is so ill thought out. And arrogant. And narrow minded.

Recently, I have been labelled an activist.

I hated the label! I rallied against it until I got tired asking to be called something else. I don’t identify as an activist because a handful of visible ‘activists’ give activism a bad image. I’m bored of it now.

 Let me just point out though that although I now accept that I am in fact an activist, do you know how I arrived here? What my first steps into involving myself with my community were?

Surprise, surprise as a volunteer/host for Pride in London!

If you are so fucking clueless that you can’t see that attacking Pride is cutting you off from the future and from those that are either just discovering our community or re-connecting with it then you need to wake up!

Our community has struggled enough of late with vanishing venues and a diminished sense of the ‘need’ for a community. Are you seriously going to try to attack the biggest gay day of the year here in the UK? Oh yes of course you are…because that is the best way for YOU to get some attention and further your own self-obsessed agenda!

Listen, I don’t disagree with a lot of the issues you have with ‘what Pride is today’. The corporate pink washing etc. But tackle those things not Pride. Organise your own event to address these. Or is it easier for you just to hijack other people’s events and momentum?

I can’t make myself any clearer. You need to take a fucking seat. Or here’s an idea…why don’t you FOCUS on what you are meant to stand for and what we desperately need now which is a strong, well organised HIV/AIDS activism group to tackle pharma and drug access, healthcare inequalities or heaven forbid focus some of that fucking energy on PrEP! On that you have been VERY lacking!

If this sounds harsh or confrontational then good! It is meant to be. We can ALL protest when something pisses us off so much that staying silent is no longer an option. I have just arrived at that point with YOU. Consider this the start of the protest against the protest. And prepare yourself. You haven’t seen me fight yet. If you want to experience that then carry on. But I’ll give you a tip. You are going to need to up your fucking game!

Don’t bother with the social media circus either. I’m not interested in it. I’ve said my piece and now I am fucking off out of this pathetic, petty, attention seeking stunt. Hopefully you’ll see a bit of sense or take a reality check at least!

With love and quite a lot of anger…

Greg Continue reading “Protest of the Protest at Pride London”

Love Love Love

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I’m in love. I’m in love with many things. The renewed and vibrant community that has suddenly sprung up right before my eyes. And the lovely dalliances with  some of my heroes that I recently learned were actually just PEOPLE too. I will not hide that I am talking about David Stuart and Sheena McCormack and Pat Cash, on Pat what a blinder to have a buddy who inspires you from his truth and raw innocence all tainted with naughtiness… WATCH OUT FOR PAT.

I fell in love very recently. I didn’t mean to, I didn’t want to. He has a boyfriend. They live together and they seem happy. It’s an open situation with them. And I celebrate everyone’s own definition of themselves and their love. I honestly really do. But with this situation I had a problem. If I were in an open relationship (FYI – Don’t think I could be….I have insecurity and worth and anxiety issues. I’m not strong enough for that)

 

If I were in an open relationship I think I would be cool with my boyfriend fucking other people. But what I wouldn’t be cool with is my boyfriend developing an emotional attachment and investment in another person. I would be uncomfortable with that. But that is what has happened. We fell asleep on the sofa – this is about heart not cock.

 

I have fallen in love with Pablo. And Pablo isn’t even his real name. I made a choice to hide him from the craziness that is my life right now.

But I fell and I fell hard and why????? I’ll tell you…

 

My heart was wrapped up and hidden away as damaged goods…to be rolled out in a cheap sale…..But then he came along and made my heart dance. Continue reading “Love Love Love”

INTERVIEW: Sherry Vine on her Truvada parody

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New York based drag artist Sherry Vine released an unapologetic ‘no holes barred’ musical parody about PrEP and boy did she split opinions!

Her opening lines are

Hey all of you gays.

Dont be so be depressed, missed out on the days when they had bareback sex.

You want to experience au-naturel anal play?

Well now you can throw all of those condoms away.

Just take a Truvada.

Here is her video. And we brought her some of your questions…

We got in touch with the Tinkerbell of Truvada and asked her to spill the beans…

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What are your personal views on PrEP?

I want to begin this discussion by saying we are neither condoning nor condemning but merely starting a conversation as refracted through our specific brand of (whacky) humor.

You have certainly split opinions within the PrEP community. Was that your intention?

We had no intention of doing something simply for shock value… and believe it or not I wanted to do something that wasn’t about sucking cock or poop and had a little more substance than the majority of the videos I have done.

A few people have commented on the video’s apparent lack of diversity and representation of people from minority groups can you discuss?

Well, those people should go back and look again. Other than me (a middle-aged Jewish man in a dress) the rest of the cast is actually diverse.  50% of the guys in the video are people of color.  And to that point, this video was made on a shoe-string budget in a small corner of the world and cannot under any circumstances be all things to all people regarding this very massive issue of HIV/AIDS & PrEP.

How did you construct this piece? Was there a lot of medical research involved?

Yes. I researched PrEP on the internet (and if it was on the internet it must be true, right?!)  But in all seriousness, I sit on the Board of Directors of The Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA) and this has been part of our on-going discussion.

Beyond laughter, what was your goal in producing the video and in hindsight do you feel you accomplished it?

I felt passionate about the topic and as I stated above, I wanted to start a conversation and I guess, since you are asking me these questions, it has.

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Do you think this piece glorifies or promotes bareback sex?

Oh my God, I hope not.

Have you come up against much backlash?

I actually expected more. The majority of the comments and feedback have been overwhelmingly positive and many people have actually thanked us for doing it.

What were your reasons for doing it?

Again, as I said above I wanted to do a piece about something that was important and being of a certain age and watching my friends die of AIDS this is clearly a very important topic not just to me, but to all of us. The queens need to be aware that this is a multi-faceted issue.  If there is any hint of skepticism (which we did not intentionally infuse into the video) it comes from my own personal question around anything that seems like a ‘magic bullet.’

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Who are your inspirations?

It literally changes daily.  Constants are any/all the ladies of rock… Debbie Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, Pat Benetar and of course my biggest influence, Carol Burnett.

What are your thoughts on the changing face of the gay scene since the explosion of hook up apps?

Go for it. If I were 20 years younger I would be on them too.  The only aspect I don’t appreciate is when they are sitting in the front row of my show on Grindr and Scruff. Lol.

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Do you see yourself as a role model, and if so what would you like people to take from your work?

No, I do not see myself as role model.  And all I want is for people to laugh.  Take a break from life and laugh… and sometimes (like with this video) think a bit.

Some of our buddies who are quite visible within the PrEP community think it’s brilliantly funny, cheeky and very well put together. A  few have commented that the great thing about the video is it’s all true and perhaps that’s why people criticize it. Except for the organ failure – which isn’t a thing. They’d like to know why did you include that when the rest is so clever and factual?

First of all, I am a drag queen not a physician.

However, it is listed as a possible side effect.

http://www.ehealthme.com/ds/truvada/multi-organ+failure

Are you a natural blonde?

There is absolutely nothing natural about Sherry Vine.

Would you say you identify more with Madonna or Courtney Love?

 

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Sherry identifies with both!

How will you contribute to world peace?

The ICSPM… the International Cock Sucking Peacekeeping Mission

What’s your message to Vladimir Putin?

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Putin Girl, relax.

Donald Trump’s hair! And go….

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Mr. Trump, please take a trip to Wigs Plus on 14th street and tell them Sherry sent you.

Do you think your video will trivialise the serious conversations around PReP which are hitting headlines at the moment?

Nope. It shouldn’t effect anything. It should (or rather could be) used as a catalyst for further conversation, discussion and education. The video does not say to take it or not to take it… It’s looking at all angles.

From a purely musical perspective this may seem a good way to challenge prejudices but do you think in some quarters this will only enhance stereotypes of gay men who bareback and further divide the community?

I don’t think of LGBT or MSM as one single all encompassing community.  It is a large population of people and as such (although the video deals specifically with gay men) like HIV/AIDS, the access to, use of and education around PrEP is a global issue. 

Do you think major HIV/AIDS organisations will agree with messages about throwing away condoms in favor of PrEP?

That is not the message!  Part of the tone and sense of humor is satirical and ironic.  I, personally, am in no way saying to throw away condoms.  In fact, my understanding is that the safest most effective way to reduce chance of transmission is the combo of condoms and PrEP.

So there you have it folks! Miss Sherry Vine laid bare. Her objective was to raise awareness and encourage dialogue. On those fronts I think she certainly succeeded!

Follow Sherry on Twitter @MissSherryVine

Continue reading “INTERVIEW: Sherry Vine on her Truvada parody”

PrEP 2015: a very blue year

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2015 has been quite a year. A brilliant year of developments on PrEP (HIV prevention) and deconstructing HIV stigma.

It hasn’t been an easy year by any stretch of the imagination and I’ve had a few personal curve balls thrown in for good measure. But such is life.

I want to take a moment to look back on our progress particularly in the PrEP arena.

At the start of 2015 there was a considerable amount of noise being made in the US by Damon L Jacobs and his facebook crew of PrEPsters in the PrEP Facts:Rethinking HIV Prevention group. This family of HIV prevention enthusiasts, users and advocates is currently sitting at a substantial tally of 12,500 people. The group’s significance within and contribution to the PrEP community even caught the attention of WHO (World Health Organisation) this year.

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But here in the UK it didn’t seem like we were making that much noise at all. There were a few random mentions from scene magazines and the odd share of an article here and there. I shared and posted as much as I could find and it was being well received as a concept.

I felt reassured that PrEP would catch on here in the UK when it was made available. I was perhaps a little too naive in making that presumption at that point. In hindsight, it was being well received as a concept because it was nothing more than that.
A concept. Not a practice or an option that was available or likely to be available in the near future.

I know this now…but I didn’t know it back then. Discovering hostility towards PrEP was unexpected and came with a hefty emotional price tag for me.

My own PrEP journey was a very short lived one indeed! Late one Tuesday evening (11th Aug). I managed to get hold of 2 months of Truvada from a HIV positive friend who had changed his meds. I decided that I would document my experience, every sexual encounter, chill out, sex party and screen for STIs every month for 6 months and write my Truvada Diary.

The next morning I hopped on a bus to Dean Street Express to have a HIV test to confirm that I was HIV negative (last tested negative Easter 2014) I had written the opening section of my PrEP journey by the time I had arrived at the clinic. 20 minutes later I was diagnosed as HIV positive. The irony! So that put an end to my PrEP diary. Instead I began writing my diagnosis diaries – This is Me part 1, part 2 and part 3.

My public disclosure on social media and the subsequent publishing of my diaries raised my visibility and awareness of PrEP and the immediate necessity for it so much that I just couldn’t cope with the amount of enquiries that I would receive on Facebook, Twitter and email.

This is when the option of importing generic PrEP was brought to my attention and really took hold. After a few
discussions with my buddy Alex Craddock and meetings some knowledgeable friends, the idea for www.iwantPrEPnow.co.uk was born.

We were going to build a website with all of the info you needed on PrEP and with links to buy genuine and legitimate generic PrEP from trusted sellers. We knew the website would take us about 4-5 weeks to build in our free time so we set about that with immediate effect.

What I identified I could do in the interim between that point and our launch was to raise awareness and test the waters. I want to gauge exactly what the feeling towards PrEP was.

We would be making access to PrEP a reality and not just raising awareness of some unobtainable new HIV prevention concept.

The reaction was not what I expected and not what I wanted to deal with at that time in my life but there wasn’t much choice.

PrEP was being smacked down quite regularly and quite aggressively.

Here I was, a very newly diagnosed HIV positive gay guy being berated and attacked for pushing for PrEP.

It was a little heartbreaking.

Why couldn’t these people see the potential of PrEP?

Why were they so averse to the idea?

I realised I had to reconcile that within myself and find a way to relate and connect to these people. The solution presented itself quite clearly and promptly. Just be honest. Just tell your story.

No one wants to catch HIV. There is a tool that is almost 100% effective at protecting you from HIV.

I managed to get hold of it. But I was a few months too late. Just state the situation and leave it there.

It seemed to work.

I was also aware that people don’t like to read pieces of text. Especially on something they are not too interested in. So I went with some very simple, very basic images. I am no graphic designer! These memes were created on an app on my iPhone. And here they are…

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It passed by without too much controversy. That wasn’t to last! Next up was a play on Apple’s incredibly irritating auto-correct of the work fuck to duck! If you use the word fuck as much as I do then this little text amend is DUCKING annoying…

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Again, I thought this was palatable. It’s a blue duck – who can have an issue with that? Quite a few people it would seem! Instantly the cries sprang up of

“Are you saying we should abandon condoms?”  

“This is totally irresponsible and reckless of you”

“You are sending out the wrong message here Greg”

“What about other STIs. PrEP doesn’t protect you from those”

I wasn’t really prepared for that reaction and I hadn’t formulated a response. Little did I know that a few short months later I would be so sick and infuriated by that ‘other STIs’ question that I would have lost my patience and found the balls to write an article titled ‘Fuck other STIs’. But at that moment it shook me a little so I tried to dampen the argument with this.

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It immediately silenced those critics. So we were learning and we were on to something. By introducing the word ‘extra’ into the positioning of PrEP we could get people to start thinking about PrEP itself and not what using it implied – ie abandoning condoms. I tested it out with the next image.

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This one went down really well! The very same people who were busting my ass over the barebacking rubber duck were now on board and thanking me for behaving responsibly with a healthy and inclusive message. So I took it a step further.

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Then I put PrEP in the tool kit.

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It seemed too simple but it really was that straight forward. Use the word ‘extra’. Make PrEP an additional tool and position it with condoms – not instead of. People stopped trying to run me out of town! But again, I had a feeling that would be short lived. We hadn’t introduced the sexual element yet. So I ran with this.

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As expected the pitch forks came out again.

What is it with people in the UK and the horror that sets in when something appears to be sexual? I’m still getting my head around that one.

But now the comments coming in were accusing me of trivialising safer sex by releasing the sexy Smurfs. In fact that couldn’t be further from the truth. PrEP is HIV safer sex. So is condomless sex with a HIV positive undetectable guy.

At that point I realised that I wasn’t ever going to be able to please everyone. So I stopped trying.

And that was liberating! For the sake of the objective at hand I decided to revert (temporarily) to inoffensive, non-sexual subject matter.

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The lightbulb was safe and for some reason people liked it. It’s one of my least favorites. I had given up trying to predict what would and would not be received well! The watch was up next.

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When this image went out on Twitter a good friend and colleague from a HIV charity tweeted me to say that he loved the image but that it was factually incorrect.

PrEP is not here as it is not accessible yet.

Little did he know that in a few weeks PrEP would be here and accessible through www.iwantprepnow.co.uk – admitedly not for free but it was here! The images were getting  a fair amount of attention now and I started getting requests. Here are a few of the requests.

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I know this tag line is from Sesame Street but it kind of worked here.

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Who knew gay men loved The Smurfs, The Muppets and Sesame Street?

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And it was no surprise that the Diva went down well!

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Then I changed the direction slightly as the reaction towards PrEP warmed.

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This next image has the wrong tag line again – my mistake. ‘You Got a Friend in Me’ is from Toy Story. The song from Aladdin is ‘You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me’. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal until I happened to catch Aladdin on television a few days ago and watched Genie and Aladdin in that number and in fact – you ain’t never had a friend like PrEP!

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The set isn’t complete without drawing a little attention to slut shaming….

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And realising that the way a person chooses to protect themselves from whatever is and always should be totally their choice and they should be fully supported in the choices they make for themselves.

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Recently I have been able to release a few images that need no disclaimers or pacifiers.

It’s nice to see David Cameron get involved with PrEP…

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And push it real good…

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The website www.iwantPrEPnow.co.uk has even been discussed at BHIVA by Dr Mags Portman.

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At BHIVA’s European HIV Hepatitis Co-infection (EHHC) Conference by Dr Andrew Hill.

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And most recently Alex Craddock (iwantPrEPnow co-founder) featured on Channel 4 News alongside our PrEP siblings and their site PrEPster

In my opinion this year has seen the UK MSM community stop slut shaming and challenging the benefits of PrEP. In the summer most of my conversations about PrEP were loaded with shaming, ridicule, dismissiveness, divisive statements, fear, resistance and a lack of knowledge.

Today with just 2 weeks left of 2015 I can tell you that the amount of interaction and conversations I have with people about PrEP has more than doubled – perhaps even tripled.

Now those conversations are predominantly from people wanting PrEP now with well constructed questions on the finer details and specifics of being on PrEP or preparing to start PrEP.

This is amazing. We have turned a corner and the road ahead looks promising. 2016 is going to be a very exciting year. 

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Continue reading “PrEP 2015: a very blue year”

It’s cheaper to stay HIV neg. HIV+ is expensive

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I’m writing out of pure frustration today. The more involved I become in the HIV/PrEP arena the more it seems that the solutions we are desperately searching for are already here! We just aren’t joining up the dots.

I’m going to kick off trying to defuse my frustrations by starting with PrEP. Particularly in light of last Friday’s News headlines.

The Guardian, Fri 9th October 2015

“NHS hospitals’ £930m overspend prompts calls for urgent funding”

“Fears grow that hospitals will run out of money and care standards will deteriorate unless chancellor injects more cash”

BBC News, Fri 9th October 2015

“NHS deficits hit ‘massive’ £930m”

“NHS trusts in England have racked up a £930m deficit in the first three months of the financial year – that is more than the entire overspend last year.”

“Regulators said the problems were the “worst for a generation” and demanded immediate action be taken.”

So the NHS have over spent! Big surprise… Well wake the fuck up people! If you haven’t been given enough funds to start with – and you only spend what you need to – YOU WILL TECHNICALLY OVERSPEND! I’m not exactly sure why this was worthy of such sensationalist headline attention on Friday. Although £930m is a substantial figure – we need to put it into context. They overspent by £930m in the first quarter. So if we multiply that by 4 to get a projection of what their total overspend for the year would be (at current performance) that would be an annual deficit of £3.72 billion. The NHS has a total annual budget of £95.6 billion. So that equates to an overspend of 3.6%. In any budget I have ever compiled in my previous career in accounts for staffing and marketing – we always had a contingency of 5%-10% of the overall budget to allow for the unknown or to cover things that might go wrong. However…

 “The NHS are projected to overspend on their annual budget by 3.6 percent” – isn’t such a punchy headline.

Semantics aside. £930m is still a lot of money. It’s clear that the NHS needs to save money. And this is where I keep getting frustrated. Especially in regards to HIV treatment and PrEP HIV prevention. Time for some more figures (please stick with me on this)

Every single day, here in the UK, 10 ‘men who have sex with men’ – that’s gay or bi men (cis or trans) catch HIV.

10 gay/bi guys a day get HIV.

Let that figure settle in for a moment.

HIV treatment for a positive guy (drugs + health care ie seeing Nurses and Consultants + any counselling that might be needed) costs approx. £20,000 per person, per year

So if we say 10 guys per day get HIV…there are 365 days per year…

10 x 365 = 3650 guys per year

3650 guys x £20,000 = £73,000,000 (per year)

So with our little series of calculations we can all agree that new HIV cases will cost the NHS £73m per year.

With that £73m figure in mind. Let’s work out the cost of giving 3650 guys PrEP for a year.

I’m using the price from Dean Street’s PrEP clinic website…

1 month of PrEP costs £400

 So 1 year’s PrEP costs 12 months x £400 = £4,800 per person

3,650 guys x £4,800 = £17,520,000 (per year) to keep these guys negative. Negative guys generally won’t need to be in clinics regularly or require on going health care and support for HIV – if they haven’t got it.

Now we can work out how much the NHS would SAVE if none of these 3,650 guys ever got HIV because they were all on (free NHS supplied) PrEP

£73m – £17.5m = £55.5m

STOP THE FUCKING PRESS!

We could actually (in theory) save the NHS £55.5 million per year just by getting our mates on PrEP and keeping them HIV NEGATIVE…..

Doesn’t take a genius to work it out…..

MAKE PrEP AVAILABLE FOR FREE NOW….

JOIN THE FUCKING DOTS…….

Continue reading “It’s cheaper to stay HIV neg. HIV+ is expensive”

THIS IS ME – PART 3

image

Thursday – the day after the diagnosis

08.25 – I’m tired. A bit hungover and very weary. I need to decamp back home. Fuck the Chlamydia appointment at 12.20. It’s only a bacteria, It’s not going to kill me. I’m not going to be having ANY having sex until I’m undetectable anyway so I won’t pass it on. I’ll pick up some antibiotics later. I’m tired and I need to get some beauty sleep before coming out tonight! Nothing as powerful as looking hot when you drop “I’m positive”. It’s time we lost the association of poz as unclean and dirty. Something to think about on the journey home. I grab my jacket and my iPhone charger and hot foot it out of Marios’ bear cave. Again I’ve opted to walk from Elephant to Clapham. Mostly because right now I’m finding the space and time to think beneficial. I hate being on the tube at the best of times let alone when I’ve hardly slept, haven’t showered or brushed my teeth and am stinking of stale vodka and amaretto! Can’t deal with that anxiety right now.

This morning the walking is not so well paced. In fact it’s bloody sluggish. Probably because I’m still pissed and the fresh air has intoxicated me further. I am without doubt on an adrenalin comedown….there is no urge for flight nor fight now. There is just the dull throbbing  urge to get home. To get into my bed and forget for a few hours while I sleep before fixing myself up and throwing myself into the world again until I next hit something solid and take stock. I have a plan – yes. But I have no map and no idea of the journey.

09.05– I made it as far as the huge church opposite Oval Tube station. I can’t walk any further right now. I sit down on steps of the church. I could feel a wobble coming but it passed pretty quickly. I felt uncomfortable sitting on the steps of a church, pissed and positive so I moved off to the bench to have a cigarette.

09.07 I was feeling fine and ready to start walking again but decided to sit a while longer and reply to Marios’ frantic Facebook messages asking where I was. Told him I just needed to get home for some sleep. He was cool.

Then my mum, more specifically an image of my mum flashed up in my mind. I know how my mum deals with grief. She has had her fair share of grief and heartache to deal with over the years. She is the mother of 6 kids and as much as she will admit to us that certain things get to her or upset her, I know that deals with a lot of her grief alone, on her own. I know this because being the oldest of those 6 kids, you are more aware of your parents and their adult world than your younger siblings are. They exist in graduated stages of blissful ignorance throughout their childhood. Blissful ignorance that I as the oldest was not afforded. For that I am actually very grateful. It has done me well in my life. My mum often doesn’t sleep at night and there have been times in my life when I have suffered horrible insomnia too. As the image of her flashed up it developed further into the setting of her awake in the middle of the night all on her own while everyone else was asleep, crying, sobbing over me and this situation. I felt her frustration that I was not only the ‘victim’ for whom her tears fell but the perpetrator of the crime against the ‘victim’ too. I didn’t HAVE to go out and catch HIV. It’s not like Cancer that just randomly appears. I actively had to go out and ‘do’ something ‘stupid’ and ‘reckless’ to put myself in this position and to land myself with this virus. It must be so hard for a parent to hear this news about their child. Their child that they love and have raised and supported and steered through most of life’s obstacles. Their child who has gone out on their own free will and caught this virus. This virus that is going to deconstruct their beautiful, perfect creation. I know this frustration personally as well as empathetically . It’s what I felt when my ex was diagnosed. I loved him so much. Harder and deeper than anyone else. Yet there I was two and a half years ago faced with the same conundrum. The person I loved most in the world – had gone out and set about his own demise. If any other person had dared to threaten or endanger him, without a doubt I would have killed them to protect him. But there he was standing in front of me telling me that he had done this to himself. I feel like I had failed him. I could not protect him from himself and I had nowhere and no one to focus my anger on. I could only keep loving him and reconcile my anger and frustration internally – away from him. Now, being the newly diagnosed positive person I know that it’s not that simple or straight forward. Nor is it that bleak or dramatic. But when you love another person like a mother loves a child or any of us loves a fiancé it is so easy to get swallowed up in the emotions and forget the much brighter FACTS and the task at hand ie no one has or is about to die. Learn to deal with this and move on. Things will get better and easier. However this morning on that bench, none of this awareness made a blind bit of difference!!! I was sobbing and needed to send my brother Sean this…

TEXT TO SEAN 09.18

When you tell Mum and Dad can you make sure you tell them IM HAPPY. I’m honestly happy. It’s shit but it’s just a bump in the road. I’m still back on form and I’m still happy.

My mind turned from my mum to Dan, the guy that I was kind of seeing in the spring. I had discussed informing Dan of my situation when I spoke with Ian the evening before but was in a flap about how and when. I couldn’t face a call. I hate speaking on the phone anyway. And I didn’t have it in me to send a text last night, alarming him and causing him to lose a night’s sleep. Instead I thought it best to wait until today, mid-morning to send the text so he could either leave work or process the info at lunch time and if he needed to come and meet me when he finished at 3.30pm or go straight to Dean Street for a walk in HIV test. But the logistics weren’t the things that were bothering. It was the dawning awareness of the real life implications this situation would have in other people’s lives. People that I cared about. This bit was hard and taxing. I lost track of time for a while. When I started to zone back in I realised I was crying hard and had been for some considerable time. My face and vest were drenched in tears. What started as sobs had reduced down to primal grunts. I got a grip and forced myself to breathe. I closed my eyes. I could easily have been listening to the audio of a heavy porn as much as my grunts of distress. This perversely made me smile. Ok, I think I can handle the next stretch of Clapham Road that will take me home. On that final walk of shame back to my place Isis was on loop in my mind. I replayed our text chat and our phone conversation over and over. I projected what I imagined our meeting later that day would be.

09.52  – I’m almost home and for the first time I am scared. Really scared. I don’t feel brave and I don’t feel prepared. I just feel scared and like I want out! But how do you get out of your own life? You don’t.

10.00  – I was home, came through the front door and into the kitchen to get a glass of water before bed. This was going to be my first face to face disclosure to someone who wasn’t a long term/close friend or positive. Lena and I had only lived together for 6 weeks. She was watching TV with her daughter in the living room and she asked how my night had been? I nodded yeah good but could she come into the kitchen so I could talk with her. I’m not quite sure how the words came out or what I said but I know I just spat them out. Then the dam burst. I was a fucking mess. Yes I was a mess…she was amazing. She just turned me around – for some reason I couldn’t face her. Straightened me up – I was bent double crying and hugged me so sincerely and solidly. I could feel her compassion and her strength. I was so grateful as I had totally drained my tank of the latter. I don’t remember any specifics from our exchange apart from she did the right thing for me – whatever that was and she tapped into a part of me that I thought had scarred over and healed but was secretly bleeding raw again….”Do you think now would be a good time to try to speak to your ex?” This floored me. I both nodded and shook my head in equal alternation. It was most definitely time for me, my puffy eyes and my snotty nose to chill the fuck out and go to bed…and at 11.00 I fell asleep

15.00 – I woke up in that hazy fog where you forget what you are waking up to. But this was a short lived respite and the world came flooding back in and settled around me once again. Dying with a hangover. That’s one thing I’ve noticed. I never normally get hangovers but the last month or so my body can’t handle me drinking so much. I thought I was just getting old, now I know it’s probably my viral load or the Chlamydia. I leaned over to my beside table and swallowed 3 paracetamol.

15.05 Lena offered me lunch which I initially declined but she insisted. This morning was the usual African scrambled eggs, which is scrambled egg with salmon flakes, caramelised onion and chilli – a lot of chilli and some freshly baked honeyed baguette. It was daunting to take the first mouthful but by the time I had finished my plate the hangover was sweating out of my pores, the headache subsiding and drive dripping back in.

15.15 – I started thinking about this whole coming out thing tonight at Let’s Talk About Gay Sex And Drugs. I didn’t doubt that I would or should do it. I just did not want to have to go through the process. I wanted it all to go away but I have a message waiting in my Facebook inbox from Paul Fleming wishing me luck for tonight and apologising that he can’t be there at the event but never doubt that he is always there for me.

Around this time I pick up last night’s private Facebook conversation with my Great Aunt T who lives in Canada and despite belonging to a generation so far removed from mine she has never been anything but passionately support of me, who I am and what I do. A wonderful woman.

12 August

12/08/2015 16:21 Greg Owen – Hey

12/08/2015 17:29 Theresa Martin Finamore – Hi Greg. Sorry was on the phone Hope things are good. Looks like things are happening x

12/08/2015 17:30 Greg Owen – Yes – things are heating up What time is it there?

13 August

13/08/2015 01:07 Theresa Martin Finamore – It’s 8.10pm here. Was out at a pot luck supper with some co-workers. Just got home

13/08/2015 01:46 Greg Owen – Still up? I need to give you a heads up on something I got a HIV positive diagnosis today I’m totally cool and ok I’m about to announce it at an event tmro night and on FB on Fri Just wanted you to know x

13/08/2015 02:23 Theresa Martin Finamore – If you are cool with it I guess I have to be too. Thank God for the great strides in meds. Just want to tell you I am so proud of you and the work you are doing Greg. I’m with you in spirit. I think you know that. Talk to you soon. If you have international text on your phone my cell number is 123 123 1234.   You would have to add more number of course. I’m glad you have friends who care. I hope you have family too besides myself. Love you Gregory Mc Geown  x

LATER THAT DAY

13/08/2015 15:24 Greg Owen – I’m good Had the most crazy funny coming out party last night Gotta love the gays Any excuse to get pissed lol

13/08/2015 16:37 Theresa Martin Finamore – I’m sure you are hungover. Lol. Big day ahead. Straighten up and fly right lol

13/08/2015 16:37 Greg Owen Love you. Just told Brendan…I’m a bit upset. I’m ok but these bits are hard really hard

13/08/2015 16:38 Theresa Martin Finamore – Love you more. I’m sure he is OK. He will have your back. What about your mom?

13/08/2015 16:38 Greg Owen – I called Sean yesterday and asked him to tell her. Couldn’t do it on the phone. Too much. Too cruel

13/08/2015 16:39Theresa Martin Finamore  – It is. Does Dad enter into the equation?

13/08/2015 16:39 Greg Owen – Yes, of course. When I say Mum I kinda always mean them both. It’s odd – they aren’t together anymore but I still see them as one.

13/08/2015 16:40 Theresa Martin Finamore – He will have your back too. They are more together than when they were together. You kids are the glue

13/08/2015 16:45 Greg Owen – I am actually ok – it’s really just that I’m putting them through this that is killing me. But I’m on stage in 2 hours…coming out and my article is released Fri lunch time

13/08/2015 16:46 Theresa Martin Finamore – Yes I know but you’re right. They have to be told before it is common knowledge
13/08/2015 16:46 Greg Owen – EVERYONE will know this time tomorrow. I can’t wait to free of that fear

13/08/2015 16:47 Theresa Martin Finamore I found it hard to sleep last night.   I’m sure your parents will have a few uneasy days too

13/08/2015 16:47 Greg Owen I’m sorry. I just wanted to give you guys your place and the respect of hearing it from me

13/08/2015 16:48 Theresa Martin Finamore – Give me your moms landline number. If she has one. Don’t be sorry. I’m glad to have it processed today
13/08/2015 16:48 Greg Owen – I don’t have it. Sean will

13/08/2015 16:48 Theresa Martin Finamore – I appreciate that Greg. I am really glad you told me. Ok if you can get her number I will call her maybe tomorrow. We spoke when Colum was injured too. She needs her mom and I’m the closest thing to it

13/08/2015 16:51 Greg Owen – xx

13/08/2015 16:52 – Theresa Martin Finamore You will be fine love. You will be the example of how to live with a HIV diagnosis with class and respect.

13/08/2015 16:52 Greg Owen I know I’ll be fine and I hope so

13/08/2015 16:52 Theresa Martin Finamore – You show them how it’s done Sweetheart xxx

13/08/2015 16:52 Greg Owen – Thank you. I need to stop crying now. Pos guys should still look HOT

lol

I can’t be doing with puffy eyes lol

13/08/2015 16:53 Theresa Martin Finamore – Yes me too. You will look hot

13/08/2015 16:53 Greg Owen haha

13/08/2015 16:53 Theresa Martin Finamore – Cucumbers out of the freezer on your eyelids

13/08/2015 16:53 Greg Owen – At least I’m not wearing mascara – small blessings

13/08/2015 16:53 Theresa Martin Finamore – True. That shit stings

13/08/2015 16:56 Greg Owen – lol

13/08/2015 16:56 Theresa Martin Finamore – Onwards and upwards Gregory. The time has come for you to lead by example. Now show the world how it’s done with class and respect. Let me know how it goes. Love you to the moon and back and forever and a day. Now go break a leg xxxx

13/08/2015 16:58 Greg Owen – THX Auty T xxxxx. Here we go – fasten your seatbelts

13/08/2015 16:59 Theresa Martin Finamore – Fastened and ready. Go get them.

18.00 – I arrive at Let’s Talk About Gay Sex And Drugs a bit dazed and confused. I somehow had gone from having 3 besties i.e. Isis, Ian and my brother Brendan there for support to having none. Brendan and Isis were running late and Ian was kept back at work. Great! But I knew I was arriving to a room of friends and like minded people so I wasn’t feeling the pressure too much. After freshening up in the toilet, the first person that I bumped into was David Stuart who gave me a huge hug and a kiss and asked the expected but appreciated questions. I’ve learned he’s a great mix of friend and professional in these situations. I was able to tell him that my biggest worry was that I had unknowingly passed the virus on to someone else since I picked it but that I was feeling lucky because I hadn’t had sex with anyone in over 6 weeks and not had very much sex in the few months before that either. The only guy that I was worried about was Dan, who I had sort of been seeing for a few weeks in the spring. As it happens, when I text him that afternoon that he had replied straight away to let me know that quite by chance, he had been to a sexual health clinic the week before and all of his result had come back clear. This was a huge relief for me. I also explained to David that I was a bit surprised that I hadn’t noticed any sero-conversion in myself. I always thought that anyone who got a positive diagnosis would have noticed some sort of symptoms and were just bullshitting and bullshitting themselves by claiming that they hadn’t. I know I was stupid and a bit naive to think that. I carried on reassuring David that I was actually OK, I wasn’t too worried about what lay ahead and if anything I was genuinely feeling blessed mostly because of my lack of sex in recent months coupled with Dan’s week old negative HIV result, and the fact that I had educated myself about HIV and involved myself so heavily with HIV and positive people that I didn’t now suddenly have to deal with ‘HIV’ itself as a threat or shock. I could simply just deal with me and what this diagnosis would mean to me. I think that is a key message in my story. I was also so grateful that I had started this journey as an advocate/activist from a place of proactive love rather than reactive anger. It seemed that the universe had thrown something back. A kind of karmic gift, I had the luxury of being afforded a ‘guilt free sero-conversion’. I was looking better than I had done in a good while and was busier and more active too and in apparent good health. I think David’s reply was just ‘Wow, I’m kinda just impressed. To hear you speak like that and to hear the language you use. Keep on doing what you’re doing Greg. You’re doing something right. And good luck for tonight. It’s a brave thing to do what you are about to. As long as it’s right for you, you have my support.” – like I said, the perfect blend of friend and support giver. The next person I had to have a quick word with was Pat Cash. There is always the standard welcoming hug but today I needed to tell him the news and ask for an extra 30 seconds after my speech to announce my status. He also wanted to make sure that I was certain I wanted to do what I was about to. I confirmed 100% that I was sure and it was right. He graciously accepted my decision and granted me the extension to my allocated time slot. I was supposed to speak 3rd or 4th but was taken off guard when Pat called me to the stage straight after the first speaker…a blessing in disguise…there was no time for nerves. The full speech from the night is below.

AIDS SHITS AND GIGGLES

Let’s Talk About Gay Sex and Drugs – ALIENS

Act Up London are an AIDS activist group billed on their facebook page as a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the HIV pandemic. Until recently AIDS activism was an ‘alien’ concept to me. However far from being the ‘angry’ bunch of individuals that I was expecting to encounter at this group, they were warm, open, welcoming and fun if not regularly fucking hilarious!

Last Tuesday afternoon on a mere 2 hours sleep after working all night at Popcorn at Heaven, I wearily made my way to Angel for the Act Up summer fair at the Positively UK offices. To say that I was less than my bouncy, usual self is an understatement. I was pro-actively 30 mins early for the 3pm kick off. As I posted my obligatory check in and promotional post on facebook, Dan Glass replied to the thread to let me know he was going to be fashionably late by about 20 mins so it was looking like the day was going to be a longer, more draining ball buster than it was already feeling like.

My brother had arranged to join the event after work to catch up with me and get a glimpse into what his ‘Social Outlier’ big bro actually got up to at these intriguingly ‘alien’ aids shin digs!

Towards the end of the meeting, after my brother a few other latecomers arrived and joined us, Dan Glass decided to throw another one of his impromptu icebreaker activities of name and statement rounds. The theme of this round was “state your name and something that no one else here knows about you”…

This is where hilarity broke out! I honestly almost pissed myself laughing…leading me seamlessly on to shit…Yes, shit. Tom our wonderfully fabulous cis-male joker proceeded to tell a story of when he found himself in KFC in Hackney – bursting for a poo that he had been in labour with all day. He deposited said poo in the KFC toilets, which he then tried to flush away. However the gods of the porcelain bowl were against him and the poo refused to go! So he flushed again further filling the blocked loo causing the monster poo to float up and over the toilet rim and land firmly at this feet – which he now takes the time to point out were dressed in 6 inch stilettos, below his ra-ra skirt! In a panic he decided to take action and leave the KFC, however as he opened the door the poo decided that it wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Tom just yet and surfed out of the loo and onto the main floor of the restaurant alongside six and a half foot Tom in heels and a ra-ra skirt!

Tom’s shit story seemed to have totally broken the ice beyond all expectation and we quickly arrived at sexual tales of the most graphic and amusing nature.

We soon arrived at my brother’s moment to share his name and chosen story, I was starting to feel nervous and uncomfortable! And I think he knew…He begins….

“Hi everybody, I’m Brendan and I’m Greg’s brother. And eh…I’m straight….And…”

He was then greeted with the not too unexpected heckles of “Ah ha!?” “Uh Hum!?” “Yeah! OK GUUUURL”

He continued “ Yeah so….I’m not really sure how sexual to go here…I have some right WRONG stories…but I dunno…”

I think the chorus then pitched in ad-libs to the effect of “go on straight boy…get nasty” and “wrong is always right gurl”

He continued…”Eh? Greg?”

I then shared a story about my brother that I maybe shouldn’t have but that was right for the moment and that he was gracious and sporting enough to allow me to tell. Bless him, I loved him for jumping in at the deep end so unconditionally and I was so proud of him holding his own and shining in a world so alien to him.

So as to keep with the tone and the theme of unapologetic sexual confessions…I admitted or bragged actually, to the group that I can suck my own dick… Which luckily I didn’t discover I could do until about 2 years ago…Otherwise I would never have got an education, got a job or left the fucking house! Mind you, though no one in THAT particular room knew this self-sucking selling point, a good proportion of Grindr and South London’s sex party fraternity DO!

Stepping into an arena that is alien and embracing people that may seem alien to us can reward us with the greatest gifts sometimes. Regardless of what gender we are, what colour, what religion, what sexual orientation or what status. Alien to each other or not, we are all joined by common ground by sex and sexuality. The ability to love and the need for love and of course the joy of being able to laugh with and at each other.

AIDS IS NOT ALIEN!

Thank you

*The audience then applauded

One more thing guys…I asked Pat Cash for 20 seconds more to speak with you after I finished my piece. He very kindly allowed me that extra time. That’s like gold dust at these events so I’ll crack on. I just wanted to take a moment to point out why groups like Act Up and events like  this are so import for us right now.

I had managed to source some Truvada to use as Prep that I was due to start taking this weekend. Now I’m well enough clued up on Prep to know that before you start taking it you need to make sure you are definitely HIV negative so you don’t cause yourself problems with creating drug resistance issues by taking Truvada if you are positive and don’t know it. So off I went to Dean Street to take my test to confirm I was negative so I could start taking the meds that would KEEP me negative. 20 mins after arriving at the clinic yesterday – I was diagnosed as HIV positive. The irony is not lost on me. This is why us coming together and sharing and making changes in our world is so important. Prep needs to be made available to everyone and now!!! So someone else doesn’t find themselves in my shoes.

I wore this vest for a reason…

hiv front HIV back

Last week this vest was ironic – this week it’s uniform.

STAND TOGETHER – MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Thank you

END OF BLOG

On the first break in the event I was approached by a guy from i-base who was interested in finding out a little more about me and my situation. He very kindly offered me some advice and information on meds, new meds, unreleased meds and a few studies that are currently taking place that I wasn’t aware of. Here is another lesson that emerged from tonight. By standing up straight away and informing people of my recent diagnosis I had inadvertently created a support network that no doubt would be keeping an eye on me and offering to help me as and when I should need them. They are only able to do that because they are aware of my situation. If no one knows what you are going through then no one can help you especially if you need support but are struggling too much in your own head to even realise that you need help. By being open about my HIV positive status the guy from i-base was able to give me advice that I hadn’t even thought to ask for yet. The meds thing was a few weeks away at the earliest so I hadn’t given it much thought. But he gave me more than just information – he gave me hope. I will always remember him saying this “There are some really impressive developments happening right now in the ARV field and some really exciting things happening over the next 2 years. We are really getting there now in regards to totally pinning HIV down as a manageable condition. Don’t worry buddy, you are going to be just fine”

21.30 – As I was leaving Let’s Talk I had a chance to thank Pat and say goodbye to David. He quietly whispered “Well done – you nailed that”. With David’s parting words spurring me on I set off on foot from Baker Street to work at the club in Charing Cross.

I had promised my brother Sean that I would call our parents after the event and before work but I didn’t really have enough time to go through that conversation twice over and put myself in that head space and pull myself back out of it again before facing a club full of excitable and drunk gays. I decided to give it a miss until the next day when I could properly allocate them both as much time as they needed. Somehow my brother must have been telepathically on to me because as soon as I had made that mental decision my phone lit up, it was him. I took the call. The conversation was very polite and measured so I had a suspicion there was something else going on with my brother that he was leading up to. I had presumed that it was probably going to be a polite reminder to actually call and speak with Mum and Dad. He brought me up to speed on how he had fared breaking the news to my olds. It turns out they took it as much in their stride as he had. They were obviously concerned about me but didn’t seem to freak out or go to pieces. We talked some more before he asked. “So when are you putting this out on facebook?” We’d already had this conversation the previous day so I wasn’t sure why he was asking again. “Tomorrow evening, I should be able to compile the diary logs that are in my iphone and flesh it out into a full blog by the time I start work at 10.30pm.” He then kind of asked but more insisted “Do you maybe think that you shouldn’t do that tomorrow?” I was a bit taken back “No, I’m pretty sure I’m fine to do that tomorrow. I just told a hundred people an hour ago, pretty soon another hundred people in my social circle will know as a result. You’ve told Mum and Dad. So the facebook thing is the right thing for me to do.” He pressed a bit further “Well, I just think maybe it’s not the right thing to do. I don’t think it would be good for Mum or Dad.”

I was suddenly really pissed off.

In hindsight, I wasn’t pissed off with my brother. I was just totally unprepared for this twist in our conversation. I had been so regimented, almost militant about this whole things so far. Everything had an action. Everything had an allocated amount of my time, emotion and energy. That system was allowing me to cope. But suddenly someone that I respect a lot, that I always listen to and consider my actions in line with his opinions was throwing me off plan, off schedule, off course and off balance. My snap reaction was irritation and panic at being caught unaware. He continued “It would be better you waited a while – maybe a week to give our parents some time to get used to the situation.” My mind went into overdrive. I have a nasty tongue when I’m rattled and a horrible temper. Thank God I have trained myself to very rarely lose it these days. I was aware it was my manic reaction to this situation and not umbrage with my bother. During the frenetic scrambling of my mind and the turning in my gut a few things crystallised very quickly for me. Instinct I suppose. I could hear Kieran’s words of wisdom from yesterday booming in my head. “Now is the time for you to be selfish Greg. To do what you need to do for YOU. Fuck everyone else and what they need from you and this. It is you that is living and dealing with this and it is you that is the priority to keep right – right now.”That coupled with the sudden gravity of how taxing this might be on my parents. Gravity that came dressed in guilt. I’ve point blank stated several times before in PART 1 and PART 2… GUILT WAS NOT SOMETHING I WAS EVER GOING TO ENTERTAIN AGAIN. I managed to calm the panic, take control of the ship again, rein in my tongue and choke off my temper before it broke. Seamlessly but abruptly I shut this whole thing down with… “Yes Sean. I hear what you’re saying. I acknowledge it but – NO. Not on this occasion. I will be posting the full blog tomorrow as I intended. It’s out now and I don’t want to have the anxiety of double guessing who knows and who doesn’t. It’s facebook, Mum and Dad aren’t on there. I know everyone else is but I don’t care, I couldn’t give a shit about everyone else. Listen, I actually can’t get in to this discussion now. I have not got it in me to keep it together and to start bending over backwards for everybody else at my own expense. Not this time. I’m sorry. And what would be the point of me making sure that everyone else is ok with this if doing that is going to fuck me up and break me? That’s no use to anyone. I’d rather everyone got their heads around me staying on top of this and supported that. Rather than everyone having to piece me back together if I break. I’ve been that person, I’m not that person anymore. And I don’t want to be that person ever again. So, this discussion has to end now. Sorry Bro.” I could tell I had pissed him off. He didn’t fight back though, just closed with “Well, you know what my thoughts on it are”. “Yes I do Bro. Thank for looking out for me. Gotta go” Then we hung up. Ouch…I didn’t like that conversation one little bit. Of course I wasn’t being such a hard faced stubborn bitch just for the sake of it. I wasn’t marching my pity parade out under my HIV banner. Not at all. The reasons I reacted like that were simple. I wanted to be free of this bind and the ‘Who knows’ the ‘How do I tell him/her/work/whoever’…I could already feel the potential of its destructiveness and that was another road I actively decided not to go down on this journey. Fuck that shit. The other reason – more emotional that intellectual was that I couldn’t bare the turmoil of thinking that my parents would spend days or weeks or months beating themselves up about this and adjusting to it while worrying if I was going to be ok. Instead of entertaining that scenario I decided to take full control of it and put paid to all of that unnecessary bullshit. I was more sure now than ever that this shit was going down my way and 100% on my terms. As much for me and myself as those people that I love who are worried about me right now. People I have sucked into this circus.

By the time I got to Charring Cross 10 minutes later. I had decided to fuck off the idea of waiting to write a blog to hit this head on. I wrote this status and posted it about 30 seconds before I started my shift at 22.00.

FACEBOOK STATUS

I AM HIV+. So that was easier than I thought. I made a very personal and public announcement at LETS TALK ABOUT GAY SEX AND DRUGS tonight. Yesterday afternoon at about 1pm I had a HIV test that came back as POSITIVE. Full details on that in the form of an article on its way tomorrow. The text that I spoke tonight will be available online tomorrow too. Aren’t you all lucky! I’m spoiling you with TWO articles in one day! I’m so kind. And a huge thank you to 56 Dean Street for looking after me yesterday and who collaborate with the fabulous (and great hug giver) Pat Cash. As always lovely to see David Stuart who was super sweet tonight too. For the record. I’m cool. I’m good mentally, emotionally and physically. And in surprisingly good form too. Xx

I didn’t pick up my phone again until my break at 02.00…I was not expecting what happened next…

PART 4

Continue reading “THIS IS ME – PART 3”