Thomas Knight (@TJ_Knight) shares his story about becoming HIV-positive and what life was like after his diagnosis.

There was this guy, someone who I'd noticed around for quite some time and eventually we hooked up through a dating site. I got so caught up in the moment, enjoying every second, and one thing led to another and before I knew it we had unprotected sex.

A couple of months passed, and I while I was visiting my family, I became quite unwell. Severe flu like symptoms, sweats, I lost my voice, I wasn't not able to eat for a number of weeks. It was serious, but I still had no clue what was going on. When I got back to London, I thought maybe it’d be wise to go get checked out. I went to 56 Dean Street and had the rapid test done, and it came back positive.

I remember the moment as if it were yesterday - it's now been three years - and I remember the sorrow, frustration and the shame I felt. This happened to me. After all the campaigning with sexual health charities and all of the lecturing that I've done over the years to others, it happened to me! After all the hassle I had from my family and others about my sexuality, I've just gone and screwed up in the biggest way possible. I decided to walk home, I was just numb.

It wasn't a conscious decision having bareback sex but I take full responsibility for becoming HIV-positive, it's not something I can blame someone else for. When the guy who passed it on to me was confronted, I found out that he already knew he was positive and assumed I was too.  

I made the decision not to tell anyone, but after a few months I couldn't handle it on my own. I told my family first. It was tough because it was obvious they didn't know what to say, do or think and to this day it's still the case. I confided in a number of friends, some took it well and others went on to tell people behind my back. Before I knew it, I had the feeling everyone knew what had happened. The thing that hurt me the most was people making assumptions about how I got it, gossiping and some even mocking me.

Following all of this, depression crept in, but I just went mad going out too much, not looking after myself, making bad decisions and mistakes I regret. I'm not a promiscuous person, I don't sleep around. I actually haven't had sex for two years to this day and I've always been like that. I can talk to a hundred guys on Grindr (not that I do) but meeting them is another matter. I’ve always suffered from low self-esteem and confidence issues but now I am HIV-positive, it has got out of control.

Finally a good thing happened, not that I saw it as that at the time. I stopped working in clubs and my lifestyle changed overnight. I was no longer out partying or heavily involved in the scene and that gave me the chance to address the issues I was going through past and present. My spark had well and truly gone and any time I did go out, it was obvious to anyone that knew me that I didn't want to be there. I was suffering from severe anxiety and depression and the last place I wanted to be was in a club. But I wanted to feel like I was still alive and I tried to force it multiple times before I was ready.

One of the other regrets I have was not going to the hospital for a year after my diagnosis. I finally had to face it as I kept getting more and more opportunistic infections all the time. From shingles to abscesses, ear infections, severe bacterial infection in my lungs and a number of other things on and off constantly. When I did attend the hospital I got told that I was on track to develop AIDS within the next 5-10 years and I was in complete shock. It didn't help that my doctor had no bedside manner to go with that statement.

So I started on antiretroviral medication straight away and have been on them for the last 10 months. I am now undetectable for the last 2 months. Since finding out I am undetectable I feel I can get back on my feet and get my life back.

Over the course of the last 18 months I've seen a counsellor and dealt with everything that was going through my head. It's been a tough road, I’ve been so lost but I can finally say that I'm the most well-adjusted and mentally healthy I've ever been in my entire life. I have to take some good from this otherwise I don’t know if I could carry on. It's been a dark couple of years but I've come out of the other side stronger than ever.

I've always been someone who has struggled with their own identity, with a feeling of being lost or not belonging anywhere, and longing for someone to be proud of me. But when I got HIV that changed. Once the clouds lift - which they do in time - you have a sudden awakening to who you are and what you want out of life. I've found my identity once more and I can see into the future again, not just that, I actually want a future.

I'm still taking steps to get back into the swing of things, starting back at the gym, getting my diet right and a good support network in place. While dealing with my depression and HIV I haven't been out clubbing or dancing but recently I can feel myself jigging, I can feel the urge to dance coming back and I love it!

As happy as I now am though, I still get this great sorrow and overwhelming sadness when I see or meet a guy I like. I say to myself "why would he want me, me and my HIV?" I know - I hope - that it gets better in time. I'm so ready to love and be loved but I need to build my confidence back up and that takes time. 

If I can help just one person not to go down this road, or help someone who is as lost as I was, then it will be worth it. HIV still has such a stigma on the gay scene and with this new generation of people not knowing or caring what their status is, we need to pull together as a community and tackle these issues. Trust me, you don’t want HIV. No one ‘wants’ it.

HIV-positive or negative, we all need to pull together.


To find your nearest GUM clinic, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/clinics


Thomas Knight is 29 and lives in North London. He works in event management and is passionate about LGBT rights and sexual health, volunteering for a number of LGBT charities. Thomas loves music and also tries his hand at DJing. @TJ_Knight