2. Materials and Methods
3.1. Female: Carly
3.2. Heterosexual Male: Jake
3.3. Gay Male: Tony
3.3.1. Theme 1: Access to Medical Services
“I always get the taxi driver to drop me well away from the clinic. I hate walking into that clinic where they’re mainly men and they all stare at me. Sometimes there’s a doctor I haven’t seen before, and they always look shocked to see me because I’m older and I’m a woman. It’s almost as if they’re thinking, she should have known better. Probably I should have, but it stops me going as often as I should. Sometimes I cancel because I can’t face the judgment, even if they’re not judging me it feels like it.”
“I stood at the elevator doors and I physically couldn’t move to press the button. I was sweating and in the end I went up the stairs, but then I couldn’t get in the door. One of the nurses saw me shaking outside the clinic door and started to come out but I ran.”
3.3.2. Theme 2: Social Support
“My daughter knows because in the early days she was listed as my contact and one hospital did contact her and disclosed my diagnosis. She made me swear not to tell her husband and the kids. She’s ashamed of me, and while she’s supportive with any physical needs I may have, emotionally she’s not there. I think it feels worse to have her so close and still not feel supported, than when she lives separately and I can at least pretend she cares. I have to go to another room to take my medications every day. She doesn’t want her husband asking what they’re for. Yeah, it’s lonely…”
“My wife left me, which was a real kick to the ego. My kids accept things, even my mum has come to terms with it. I thought my sister had until I asked her if I could get the hospital to send my meds to the pharmacy where she works. She freaked and said everyone would know what they’re for. I guess even family have limits with HIV.”
3.3.3. Theme 3: Stigma
“I often wonder if I went to my neighbor’s house for a cup of tea and told her I was HIV positive, would she be horrified? Sometimes I want to test it just to have someone to talk to, but I know I’m never going to find out because I’m not going to tell anyone. The risk is too much. At the moment it’s me, my daughter, the ID clinic and the hospital pharmacy. No one else in the world knows and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”
“I’m off drugs now, but even if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t go near my druggie friends. They still talk about HIV as a ‘poofter’s disease’ and so in their minds that would make me a poofter. I think it’s worse for a heterosexual man because there’s not so many of us around and we’re immediately labelled as something we’re not.”
“If I didn’t have a supportive family and other social supports, I probably would have considered taking my life like I’ve seen quite a few men do when they’re diagnosed and rejected. I’m not proud of being HIV, but I don’t hide it. The stigma is out there and sometimes it can catch you unawares, like the old friend who learns and suddenly won’t hug you, or the comments on some discussion boards about ‘must be clean’ as if HIV is dirty. So old fashioned, but still hurtful so I choose to cut myself off from those experiences and stick with the good ones.”
3.3.4. Theme 4: Mental Health
“I had a bad marriage when I was on anti-depressants, but once that was over I thought my mood was pretty stable. Even when my ex-partner left and I kept getting sick, I was still stable. HIV changed that, and I think it’s because I’ve got no one to talk to. The thought of a therapist knowing my secret terrifies me, so when the ID clinic doctors say how are you, I just smile and say fine. I guess they didn’t believe me because they still prescribed medications for my moods and tried to get me to a therapist. I take the tablets, but the therapist is not happening.”
“I know I pumped chemicals into my body with the drugs, but that felt like choice—even though I was an addict so the choice bit is debatable. Now they were telling me I had to take tablets for the rest of my life and I hated it. That’s what really got me down, so they wanted to give me anti-depressants to get over that. I refused.”
“I’m not sure I needed them medically, but at the time I think the doctors felt it would be more anxiety-provoking not to prescribe them than prescribe them. I saw a therapist too, but he ended up telling me I was incredibly well-adjusted. Again, just me over-thinking things. I thought I should need all this mental health support but in reality I didn’t. I had my family and my friends and now my HIV community, and that seems to be enough at the moment. Ask me again if I get really sick, but I’m doing my best to avoid that.”
4.1. Access to Medical Services
4.2. Social Support
4.4. Mental Health
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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