A RASH that wouldn’t go away was the first sign something was wrong for a woman who has been living with HIV for the past 12 years.
Rachel (not her real name) described her shock when a Chinese herbalist suggested she go for an HIV test when she visited him as a last ditch attempt to get rid of the rash.
“He looked at me and said ‘have you thought about having an HIV test’ - I was stunned and when I said ‘no’ he simply said ‘I think you should think about it’. I didn’t do anything about it for about a year, the rash wouldn’t go away and I’d tried everything. So I thought I might as well have the test. I never expected it to be positive, but it was,” said Rachel.
“My first thought was ‘my life is over’. I really thought I was going to die. But that was 12 years ago and I’m still well and getting on with my life. I’m on daily medication and have been stable for the majority of the time since I was diagnosed. The rash flares up from time to time, and I still don’t know what causes that,” she added.
Rachel, who lives in the Fenland area has spoken out as part of the recently launched campaign by charity DHIVerse to raise awareness of the disease in this area.
The charity wants people to think about the possibility of being HIV positive and get tested because of the increasing numbers becoming infected in Fenland, many of whom are unaware they have the disease.
Traditionally HIV has been considered a disease which affects mainly gay men, but while they are still an at risk group anyone could become infected if they are having unprotected sex - male or female.
But as Rachel points out a person diagnosed and undergoing treatment becomes less likely to pass it on as the medication keeps the viral count down making it less transmittable and treatment also means the person stays well.
Someone with HIV now has a normal life expectancy thanks to innovations in treatments but to get treatment people need to be diagnosed first.
Rachel has no idea how or when she contracted the disease, which is true for many others. The number of people at risk is growing all the time. The more people there are in the community with undiagnosed HIV the bigger the problem.
To find out more about DHIVerse and its campaign, which runs tntil the end of January, or to organise a free test contact: 01223-508805.