Neil Currie is 45 and from Sheffield and works in computer technology.
“After a one-night stand in 2005 I went to get tested. It was the middle of the summer and I developed flu-like symptoms and I instantly knew at that point. So I went for a test to the GU clinic in Leeds; it was same day results. They phoned me about two hours later to say we can’t see you today. I was like, “Oh I’ve tested positive, haven’t I?” and the poor receptionist got all flustered and said, “I can’t tell you anything over the phone”. I said “Well you kind of have”, so I went in the next day and saw a nurse. She told me. I was quite matter of fact about it. I thought that was it, I’d dealt with it but turns out I hadn’t because a couple of years later I sold everything and moved to Barcelona – and ignored my status for several years.
I was just in denial. I was living in Barcelona. I was working full time, partying every night and just doing my best to ignore it. I can say that looking back retrospectively. At the time, I was just like, ‘I’m having fun, I’m living in Spain’ but retrospectively I was burying my head in the sand.
I mean the two years intervening between testing and leaving for Barcelona I was being tested regularly and everything was fine at that point. I should make it clear the advice was you don’t go on treatment until you hit 350 T cells.
I constantly felt tired and out of sorts so I went to my GP in Spain, explained my status and that I hadn’t been tested for a while for my CD4 count. The blood test came back and I was at 50 CD4 cells. They instantly put me on Atripla, they said you need to start taking this. I won’t lie, it took about a week to pluck up the courage to take the first tablet. It was daunting because once I started that was it but supportive friends said you need to do this, so I did. Within a month, I was undetectable. My CD4 count bounced back to about 595. And recently, because I’ve been watching Pose, it very much brought it home to me quite how ill I was, because historically below 200 was the trigger point for having AIDS.
I had a civil partnership a year ago. Jay is actually HIV negative. Initially everything was fine before we sort of fell in love. Then when you develop really deep feelings for somebody, even though I know undetectable means uninfectious, I suddenly started to freak out. It impacted our sex life, and in the end Joe went on PrEP, but over time he stopped taking it and I’ve got used to the idea that I know I’m not going to infect him… or at least it’s statistically so insignificant. It’s been a long road that took about a year for me to get over actually.
I’m remarkably positive, if you’ll excuse the pun. I’ve found the man of my dreams. I’m happy, fulfilled. My life couldn’t be better quite honestly. It’s not somewhere I ever expected to get to. I’d sort of written off a long-term partner as something that probably wouldn’t happen to me. Certainly not a serodiscordant partner, someone who’s HIV negative, but the world throws curve balls at you.”
Photos by Joel Ryder