ABOUT HIV & AIDS

In 2002 I became really sick. I was told that I would need to start on medications right away


By Paul Pighin

I came out in 1992, when I was 22 years old. This was an amazing time for me. I had fallen in love for the first time, and was beginning to truly live out my life as a gay male.

Four years later, I was diagnosed as being HIV-positive. I couldn’t understand how my life had changed so quickly in such a short time. The results were devastating to me. Even more devastating was what happened when I confronted my partner about being positive; he would not admit that he was and would not get tested.

The news of my HIV-positive diagnosis, along with the feeling of being betrayed by someone I loved, left me in an extremely vulnerable place.

In 2002 I became really sick. I was told that I would need to start on medications right away. I did not have a drug plan and had to rely on Government assistance. For six to eight months, I struggled to receive the help that I needed. I went from 160 lbs to 129 lbs. I kept thinking: will I get to the point where I won’t be able to take care of myself?

I also felt alone. I was afraid to speak up for fear of rejection. There were many stigmas attached to those living with HIV, even in early 2000, and unfortunately many of these issues still exist within families, social circles, religious institutions, schools, and the justice system. Stigma is one of the main reasons why this virus keeps spreading, one of the reasons why fewer than 40% of people living with HIV are aware of their status.

Eventually I was able to start treatment, and my health vastly improved. At first, I was taking four different medications and had to take certain doses eight times a day. Research has led to incredible advances that have simplified treatment for people like me. I am healthy and strong today because of the great strides CANFAR has made in the area of AIDS research.