Famous for three minutes and 72 seconds?

Posted on: 18th June 2014

Thanks to Jo for this post.

In 1968 the artist Andy Warhol said: “In future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”

If that’s true then I’ve got another 11.28 minutes of fame to go, as today’s BBC TV News story brought my total air time to 3.72 minutes. But as anyone living with HIV knows, sharing your status with several million people on national TV is not exactly a dream come true. So why on earth did I do it and how do people react?

The first broadcast last September was very scary but this time round it wasn’t so bad. After all, once your HIV status is out there, it’s out there. And the reaction to that first broadcast was pretty positive.

I got lots of calls, texts and emails but none of them were negative. The main problem was it took ages to stop people thinking I was going to die. Using a sort of “Death Voice”.

They would say: “You’re so brave.”
I’d say: “But I’m fine, really.”
They’d say, choking voice, tears in eyes: “You’re SO brave.”
I’d say: “No, seriously, I’m FINE.”
They’d say: “You should have said … you’re so brave…”

This could go on for ages, as a lot of people who have not been personally affected by HIV are fairly clueless about it, still seeing tomb stones, as featured in the original campaigns. While treatment has moved on, public knowledge has not.

The ignorance out there is why we all come up against stigma. The broadcast today was about that, with the Royal College of Nursing calling for better education and support for over 50s from people in the health system. That’s why I agreed to take part.

If we don’t talk normally about our HIV, no one else is going to treat us in a normal way. If we can help just a few more people to understand, then it will get better, so that we can all be comfortable in our own skins.

On the way back home I was sitting in the sun outside a pub near Victoria station waiting for my daughter when two young guys next to me started chatting. Asked why I was there, I told them I’d just done an interview, and what it was about it. They asked me a lot of questions and now know an awful lot more about HIV. I’m sure they’ll pass it on to their mates.

And if I get another chance, I will use my remaining 11 and a bit minutes to reinforce those messages.



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