Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bad News Good News

A little while ago I came home from a week away with an old school friend to hear from my partner that while I was away he had a routine HIV test and it had come back positive.

Obviously I had to be tested too and whilst we are still awaiting a second confirmatory test, it seems I am negative.

I could write a small book about the way this is affecting me, him and us but I won't.

As everyone is at constant pains to point out to us, an HIV diagnosis is nothing like it was ten years ago - it's no longer a death sentence. One nurse described HIV today as having a chronic but managable disease like diabetes or epilepsy. This is obviously the good news. So keen are the healthcare professionals to stress that things have changed, it is extremely difficult to get them to say any more than 'well some people are still healthy now 20 years after diagnosis'. In fact they're so upbeat you'd wonder why you were ever upset by the diagnosis in the first place. Of all the millions of questions around at the moment, the most pressing for me, as a negative (fingers crossed) partner of an HIV+ man is - what's the BAD news?

I'm sure it will become clear in time just what the balance of good and bad news is but for now: nothing changes: everything changes. I have an indescribable yearning to be close to him, emotionally, physically: at the same time, we both experience the conflict inside of knowing that our physical and emotional touching is going to be changed in ways we can't yet quite appreciate. The virus now, subdued just a little by advances in treatment, is a more subtle thing it seems, yet our reactions are both subtle and ferocious. Everything we know, we learnt at the height of HIV education campaigns ten years ago or more - now we have to relearn. It was always the supreme irony of HIV that the metaphorical mixing of sex and death, beloved of writers and artists since history began, was made into a real connecion by this virus - now? well until we can get someone to tell us the bad news as well as the good I can't really know what that connection is like today.

How ironic that the thing which indspired me to start a blog was reading the Journals of Derek Jarman. Now it seems I may have another, very different story to tell about HIV. I'm not sure how much of that I will take on. I am comitted to keeping this blog going despite the occasional month-long gap but it may be that I never mention this again or I may use this as a space to write whatever the story ends up being...

Some good news though: we live in a western country - we can get the drugs he will need one day - for that piece of good news at least we can be very thankful...

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