I'm like a secret agent

5th May 2006 at 01:00
Max is 17 and taking AS level sociology, psychology, economics and business studies at a London FE college.

When I was in Year 8 I had shingles. My dad told me I was HIV-positive. He died the same year. I missed a week of school; otherwise I've probably got the best attendance record in my college. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

No one at school or college has known I'm HIV-positive. Teachers say come and tell us things, but if you told them they'd tell the headteacher and then it might spread and they might get rid of you.

I remember a teacher saying to me: "If you have HIV you are going to die, and you can catch HIV only from sex." I contested that, and he said: "I'm the teacher; I know what's best". I thought: "Forget it, I can't be bothered."

It's difficult to keep it private. I'm like a secret agent: I have medicine in a little pouch around my neck and I sneak off to the bathroom to take it. If someone asks I say it's Nurofen. It means I'm always hidden; afraid of opening the floodgates and then having to close them again.

The one person in my family who knows is my sister. In a moment of rage I told my uncle, a couple of months after my dad died. After I did that he moved out of our house. We still talk to him, but I can't help thinking it's because of me that occurred.

If you're chatting up a girl, you can't say: "By the way, have you got HIV?" She'll say: "What do you take me for? Do you think I'm dirty?"

That's what people think. It's dirty. It's evil. It's your fault you contracted it. Did HIV knock on my door and ask: "Do you want me?"

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