A REDDITCH couple have spoken about living with HIV after a survey revealed more than half of millennials would ‘shun a friend’ if they contracted the virus.
Tom Hayes, aged 34, and fiance Jimmy Isaacs both contracted HIV from previous partners.
Tom, who is the editor of lifestyle magazine Beyond Positive, said he often receives abusive messages on social media while campaigning to tackle the stigma surrounding the condition.
His comments come in the wake of research which was commissioned by author Roland Chesters, who was eager to gauge current perceptions around HIV.
Of the 2,000 people questioned, 22 per cent of people aged between 24 and 34 said they would no longer be friends with someone with HIV.
A further 32 per cent said they would ‘distance themselves’ and 40 per cent said they thought people contracted HIV through ‘irresponsible behaviour’ or a ‘promiscuous sex life’.
“People with HIV still face the stigma on a daily basis,” said Tom who was cheated on by his former partner.
“And there’s still a real lack of education on the subject.”
Jimmy said: “I was living in ignorance until a friend of mine was diagnosed with HIV.
“Some of his friends vanished overnight when they found out he had it because they thought it was somehow his fault.
“A lot of people are scared to disclose their status because they fear being cut off from their friends.
“When I learned I had HIV I was told ‘once you tell someone you can’t un-tell them’.
“But I knew almost immediately that I wanted to do something good and to try and dispel the stigma.”
The couple are encouraging people to get tested regularly as early diagnosis improves the odds of living a long and healthy life.