I was diagnosed in Sydney with HIV in June 1997
I was in Australia as a recent immigrant. At the time I was working as a RN in an Intensive Care Unit in Sydney…and it goes without saying that even at the best of times it’s a job that requires one’s full attention in everyway,
Two to three weeks after my diagnosis – quietly, fearfully, guilt fully keeping it to myself – I was approached by my then manager who had noticed my lack of attention to detail in my documentation in patient’s notes, thankfully my clinical care was still of a high standard.
I had never been told that any aspect of my work was substandard and being told this was really confronting because I allowed it to mean more than it actually meant. I allowed it to mean that not only was my work substandard but so was I…all these negative correlations and equivalents confronted me and I blurted out – without thinking – what had happened and that I was trying to hold things together, frightened, unsure and feeling very unsupported, unsupported because as a recent arrival there were very few I felt I could confide in at the time.
To my manager’s credit she was very sympathetic but tellingly she said that whilst she would keep my diagnosis confidential she advised me to tell no one else at the hospital because it might jeopardize my employment at worst and my day to day experience at best i.e. rumor, bullying, stigma etc. I felt completely vulnerable!
So as she suggested I kept it to myself, and to this day I have kept it to myself (in the workplace anyway) because she was right.
Over the years since being diagnosed I have witnessed first hand some of the ignorant and stigmatizing behavior that’s been exhibited by a few in ALL disciplines within healthcare….be it towards fellow staff members who have had their HIV status made known or towards patients with HIV coming into hospital…sure to their face they are treated well but behind their backs it’s a different story…sad to say.
Last year when the ENUF campaign became known to me I signed up as an ambassador and although not much has happened in that regard it was a turning point for me in so much as I had become tired of hiding and from now on, if my HIV status were to be discovered so fucking what!
I have never been a threat to any patient in my care, I have made doubly, triply sure of that….and further more my documentation has been superb!