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Since 2007 – I was 67 when I was diagnosed. It was a bit of a shock to the system. I had pneumonia and they gave me 48 hours to live. I wasn’t responding to anything and HIV was the only test they hadn’t done. When it came back HIV positive, I said ‘Don’t be stupid – I’m too old!’ But I wasn’t.
In the beginning it was meeting people and getting back into life. One time I phoned a friend who I had told about my diagnosis, and she put the phone down on me. I thought people didn’t want to know me. But I came to realise that she wasn’t really a friend.
It was around April 2008 – my HIV consultant realised that I wasn’t doing so well mentally. He referred me to a counsellor who took me for lunch at the cafe at Waverley Care Solas, as it was then known. It was weeks before I got the courage to go back. But I’m glad I did. I still enjoy being part of the various groups and I volunteer at Milestone once a week. I also helped set up the Service User Involvement Group as a bridge between service users and Waverley Care management and it’s great that the group is starting to grow.
I’ve met some amazing people – Waverley Care staff and other service users – and I’ve made some lovely friends. I have a better life now than I did before believe it or not! That’s because I do more and I go out more. I was given a second chance and I thought ‘I’ll make the most of it’. HIV is not that hard to live with if you take your medication. At the beginning it was hard to take the tablets as I knew I’d be taking them for the rest of my life and it was weird. I didn’t want to do it. But my daughter gave me a row. Talk about role reversal! I have an amazing family – they’ve been so supportive and never once condemned me. The only thing is, I still don’t know how or when I got it – my doctor said it could have been up to 15 years before I was diagnosed.
I would tell them to support it – definitely. If anyone asks me about a charity to support I’ll say ‘Waverley Care! Waverley Care!’. I’ve even got my daughter doing it.
I didn’t actually drink until quite recently then someone introduced me to gin! My favourite food is just food – so as long as it’s not spicy, I’m fine.
I love Jeffrey Archer – I think he is a brilliant author. Also John Grisham and Jeffrey Deaver. I’m reading my way through the Lincoln Rhyme books and they are fantastic.
I’ve got loads. I love Downton Abbey, Person of Interest or Criminal Minds. I love an American crime drama. I’m not big on comedy as they keep using the ‘F’ word and I hate it – I just don’t see the point to it.
Playing computer games and knitting. I don’t do Facebook except for games – Criminal Case and Pearl’s Peril. My grandchildren keep sending me messages but I can’t answer them.
Just to prove everybody wrong that you can live with HIV and live to be really old. I plan to live to 102 and see my great-grandchildren grow up.