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Man from Cardiff shares story of life with HIV

A man diagnosed with HIV spoke about his experiences to mark World AIDS Day, a day where people show support for HIV patients and commemorate those who have died from it.

The red ribbon is a symbol of awareness and support for people living with HIV. @World Bank

An HIV-positive patient shared his experiences with the virus at Cardiff University yesterday to mark World AIDS Day.

Gavin Sheppard, who was diagnosed with HIV 11 years ago, spoke about how the deadly virus has affected his life at an event organised by Cardiff University, the Students Union, and the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board last night.

“HIV is a big part of my life because it made me realise what life is about and it was a big turning point when I became diagnosed,” says Gavin, an estate agent from Cardiff.

“Although it’s a part of my life it does not rule my life.”

Gavin speaks about his experiences living with HIV: “Embrace who you are. You will be all right.”

Over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK today and an estimated 36.7 million people carry the virus worldwide.

Recent figures from Public Health England show that there has been a decline in diagnoses of HIV in the UK in gay and bisexual men.

Dr Nicola Lomax, Clinical Director of the Integrated Sexual Health Department, says that the past two years there were “far fewer” diagnoses and people living with HIV today are not “necessarily dying as a consequence from it.”

World AIDS Day takes place every year on 1 December and was the first ever global health day. This year’s campaign focuses on the right to health care and aims to end discrimination.

Cardiff University’s Main Building is lit with the red AIDS ribbon, demonstrating the university’s commitment to the battle against AIDS.

“We’ve come a long way in the last 30 years,” says Fiona. “I’ve been working with HIV patients since the mid-nineties and really never thought that one tablet once a day would be achievable.”

Difficult access to services, increasing demands for services, an expanding population, the high cost of new treatments, and reduced NHS resources remain a challenge to sexual health services in the UK.

Gavin Sheppard, Dr Nicola Lomax and Fiona Clark spoke at Cardiff University to share their experiences with the virus.

Despite these challenges, Fiona is positive for the future: “There is hope for the future of a cure. I’m quite hopeful that a cure will be around in my lifetime.”

Gavin says: “I would urge anybody that is newly diagnosed, as soon as they come to terms with themselves: speak about it, because that’s the best way I’ve dealt with it, just to talk about it with people.”

Red ribbon photo licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0