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World AIDS Day - A Personal Reflection

December 1, 2017 7:00 AM
By Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett

Each year the 1st December, World AIDS Day arouses a series of different emotions for me from relief, to tears, to pride and to survival that I've surmounted another six months.

You may wonder why, in 2017 this means so much to me and engulfs me in such a fashion. Well, I was diagnosed on the 3rdJune 2004, which is ironically the halfway point of every year between December 1st. It is my HIV positive anniversary which many people, who have been diagnosed, have etched on their psyche for ever.

So, 13 and a half years later, I am well, healthy, undetectable and living my life to the fullest I can remember and that' s why I usually have a few private tears on December 1st to remind myself what has happened in my life, the friends I've sadly lost and the continued fragility that encompasses the stigma and discrimination that is still faced today.

I'll never forget the day I was diagnosed, left at the clinic by the person I was then seeing and realising the consequences of several years of behaviour which had been underpinned by my own lack of self worth, confidence and mental health insecurities. I received the news from my health adviser Mark, with initial determination and acceptance. It wasn't until I relayed the news to my close friends that immediately I realised that their reaction was far more upsetting than my own , and I now look back at how perhaps I had a delayed reaction to the diagnosis which pervaded much later in my own mind and had ramifications many years later.

The second biggest moment happened on Boxing Day 2004, I hadn't at this point come out to my parents that I was gay. I had been petrified of this particular revelation and had concocted a series of escape routes if the announcement had gone badly. However, what I hadn't ever planned for was that was the easy part, the second part was to then admit to being HIV positive as the second gulp of breath was taken, I could see my parents' faces screwing up in sadness and concern for me and for my health.

The good thing was that even though I've faced difficulties in finding the right antiviral combination for the following five years, with the advances of HIV medicine, I've been undetectable now for more than seven years and living the healthiest and fittest I've ever been.

Which is why December 1st makes me sit back and reflect and realise how far I have come as a person. Being the first ever openly HIV+ Parliamentary Candidate to stand in the 2015 General Election for the Constituency of Vauxhall, and subsequently standing again in 2017 in Ipswich and remaining the Snap General Election Candidate until next May. For that reason, I will always thank in particular Nick Clegg, and senior party colleagues like our President Sal Brinton who when I announced my intention to talk about my health and demons privately they gave me 110% support for which I will always be grateful for. It has enabled me to speak about the issue, help and support others who are struggling and give a voice for our community. I also feel compelled to do so because I had created that platform through my honesty and December 1st encompasses this every year.

There is still an amazing amount of stigma and misinformation out there, and the campaign to provide PrEP on the NHS has sadly only highlighted the ignorance that still exists not only amongst the general population but even amongst the LGBT+ community where slut-shaming and negative expressions on Grindr profiles show a profound lack of understanding and knowledge that being undetectable means that you can't pass it on, which has led to GMFA'S new campaign the "Undetectables" which you can view at this link https://www.gmfa.org.uk/theundetectables-why

So as I started this piece, I sign off with one last emotional word, overcome with tears, of relief, of pride and of survival but most of all I'm here to help and support others who find themselves in difficult positions. That is my mission, both my activism politically and socially whatever it amounts too is to leave a legacy on this planet that in my life I've hopefully helped somebody to overcome their fears, provided a voice of support and encouraged other people to live their lives the best they possibly can. December 1st , World AIDS Day encapsulates this for me.

Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett

Ipswich Parliamentary Candidate, and LGBT+/HIV Campaigner

Former Chair LGBT+ Lib Dems

Adrian head and shoulders