"Their life-affirming leadership empowered me"

About: Bromley Healthcare / HIV specialist nursing

(as the patient),

To say 2015 wasn't a good year is an extreme understatement.

I had a dreadful battle with the demons of debt and depression. Stress got the better of me, which led to weekends of excess and questionable decisions.

My September diagnosis of depression, stress and anxiety was only the start. Shortly after, an enlarged gland on my neck was suspected to be cancer of the Lymphatic system (Lymphoma), but before it could be diagnosed, it ruptured and left behind an e. Coli infection. This, in turn, led to Secondary Stage Acute Kidney Injury and a 4 day hospital stay.

During routine blood tests, I was diagnosed with HIV.

As soon as I as I was discharged, I saw my Clinical Nurse Specialist, Sarah  at Beckenham Hospital.

I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't upset as I was already pretty educated on the current meds, how HIV affects your life and so on; in fact I decided within 2 hours of diagnosis to be open and honest to anyone and everyone, in my own small way helping to blow away the remaining stigma. In fact, very quickly I concluded that being positive was a great 'tw** filter'... I mean, if I'm undetectable and on meds, you might as well reject me for having a cold.

From the moment I met Sarah, I knew I was in good hands. I've never met anyone so open and honest, yet completely non-judgemental. She and her colleagues are truly experts in their field and, I confess, I wish I could turn to Sarah for all my medical concerns, not just HIV. Calm, approachable and completely down to earth, I was put at ease within our first 30 seconds together.

Dr  Post is my HIV Specialist; a prolific HIV 'guru' who's travelled the world to educate and advise, and is involved in several national studies concerning Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) and its' impact on kidney function. Again, extremely down to earth and approachable, I'm very happy to be under his care.

Both Sarah and Frank helped me 'normalise' HIV.

I don't live with it, it lives with me. My rules.

Nor does it define who I am; it just makes me a little bit more interesting.

I've become tremendously empowered by their life-affirming leadership, using much of my spare time to educate others of the facts. Sadly, there is a huge lack of education amongst the (especially younger) gay community, where people assume 'neg on neg' without condoms is safe, but 'positive undetectable on neg' WITH condoms is unsafe (despite it statistically being thousands if not millions of times safer). Sadly, there also seems to be more stigma amongst the gay community than my straight peers, and this is also down to ignorance.

These services are still vital. I'm lucky: I'm made of strong stuff, but for some, an HIV diagnosis is the end of the world. People like Sarah, her colleague Bev (who unfortunately I've not really dealt with yet) and Frank, do something your regular GP can't: give you their time, their care, and occasionally when you really need it, a box of tissues and a hug.

Amazing, amazing people.

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Response from Amanda Mayo, Head of Integrated Care - Bromley ICN, Operations Directorate, Bromley Healthcare

picture of Amanda Mayo

Thank you for your extremely well written and articulate posting.

It is heartfelt and honest.

I hope your posting is read by many, many people for lots of reasons.

I will make sure Sarah and her team see this wonderful feedback.

I hope the 'demons' never return. They shouldn't with Sarah and her team looking after you.

Kind regards


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