I’m HIV-positive. But thanks to drugs no one can catch the virus from me | Michael Nugent

Advances in medication now mean that the virus can no longer be detected in my blood, so its impossible for me to transmit it to anybody

I will always recollect how I felt the moment I was told of my diagnosis as HIV-positive. It was 4 July 2016, and I thought that was it for me. I guessed I was a risk to others, and on a countdown to death. Im not alone in those views a new survey depicts nearly 40% of the public would be uncomfortable going on a date with someone on effective HIV treatment. And one in three would be uncomfortable devoting first aid to someone living with HIV, even if they are on effective treatment.

Now I know that I and everyone else who believes this could not have been more wrong.

A year ago, I was terrified and anxious that I could, and would, infect someone. Satisfying a new partner was now out of the question. With every action I took, I though about every possible scenario that could result in me injuring myself. The thought of seeing my own blood scared me to the core.

I supposed my doctor wouldnt be able to help me any more, and dentists wouldnt be able to treat me. All because I guessed I was walking around being infectious.

Being around people was one of the hardest things to be dealt with, especially my nieces and nephews. They know I am a big kid at heart, and as normal they kept running up to me wanting to play, but I maintained discovering myself putting them at limbs length and telling: Not now.

I began to do a lot of research on HIV and went across articles mentioning the word undetectable. It was not a cure, but this seemed to be a sunlight at the end of the tunnel: effective HIV treatment controls that suppress the virus, so the tracings of HIV in the blood can no longer be detected.

The recent Partner survey which looked at 58,000 instances of sex without a condom between couples where 1 was undetectable and one was HIV-negative determined not a single transmission of the virus. Zero, out of 58,000. This proves that if you are HIV-positive and have an undetectable viral load, you are not infectious and cant pass on the virus. It has taken 20 years, but the scientific proof is here.

Getting to undetectable became my goal. I remember my very first tablet there was so much power in such a small thing. I knew it would not only save my life, but would also protect the people around me. I felt suddenly like I was back in control again. Just two months after my diagnosis, I ran for my viral loading test, to find out if the therapy had been effective. I could feel my belly twisting.

I have some good news for you, the doctor said. The results are back and they demonstrate your viral loading is not detected.

I had just been handed my life certification. I went straight to my sisters house to show her. I gave my niece and nephews a massive nuzzle and rolled around the living room wrestling them, just like Id always done before my diagnosis.

Before these results, my family all knew about my HIV status, and we all tried to be normal, but we all had our own anxieties the what ifs. With these results in front of them, you could feel the atmosphere shifting. There was relief.

I am still adjusting to being HIV-positive, that I cannot lie about. After all, as a homosexual man, my brain had been trained from a young age to fear HIV. But now, as an HIV-positive person, I know that its us the people who are diagnosed, and know they have the virus, but are on medication to suppress it who are the people taking precautions to objective HIV transmission. We dont wishes to, and cant, pass on HIV.

Now I know Im healthy and cant pass on the virus, Im enjoying every moment life brings. But there are going to be many challenges I have to face, because the stigma has not gone away. People fear HIV because they dont understand it. I know that all too well. That was me not that long ago.

Ive become a volunteer speaker in colleges and colleges, giving talks on what life is like being a HIV-positive person. People say Im brave being open about my status, but it shouldnt have to be a brave thing to do.

Im not a risk and there is no need to treat me any differently. We need to get this message out to the people who arent getting tested, who are living with undiagnosed and untreated HIV, simply because theyre too afraid to know. Currently one in seven people living with HIV in the EU doesnt know they have it, and can therefore still pass on the virus. If we removed the dread, we could stop HIV transmission. Its as simple as that.

The Terrence Higgins Trust is starting this process through its Cant Pass it On campaign: people on effective treatment cant pass on HIV. I tested, Im on effective treatment, and I cant pass it on. This is my journey from diagnosis to undetectable. But my journey to stop HIV stigma is only just beginning.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Russian spy assault: Johnson welcomes allies’ supporting

Foreign secretarys statements precede Trump sacking of Tillerson, who had criticised Moscow

The UK has been encouraged by the “strength of support” from allies to take action against Russia after the nerve agent attack on a former spy and his daughter, Boris Johnson told just hours before the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was sacked by Donald Trump.

Tillerson, who spoke to the foreign secretary on Monday afternoon, had told reporters the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal” clearly came from Russia” and would have consequences.

His statements went further than those of Theresa May, who told the House of Commons on Monday it was ” highly likely” Russia was behind the two attacks. The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had stopped short of pointing the finger at Russia.

Just hours after Johnson had welcomed US support, Trump tweeted that he had replaced Tillerson with the CIA director, Mike Pompeo. The sacking may not be linked to Tillerson’s comments on Russia; closer relations between the pair are believed to have been degenerating for some time, especially over the Iran nuclear deal and Trump’s announcement that he would meet the Northern korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

It is unclear when Tillerson learned that his dismissal was imminent. It was first reported he had known since Friday, which was denied by sources, and a state department spokesman afterward said Tillerson” did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason” and later suggested he had read the news on Twitter.

The US president said he would speak to the British “ministers ” about the Salisbury poisoning on Tuesday.

Trump told:” It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia … I would certainly take that finding as fact .” But he added:” If we get the facts straight we will denounced Russia, or whoever it might be .”

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Downing Street is hoping for a strong statement of support from Trump when he speaks with May on Tuesday, having previously been encouraged by such direct disapproval from Tillerson.

Skripal and his daughter remain in hospital in a critical condition while the Wiltshire police detective sergeant Nick Bailey is in a serious but stable condition.

Bailey is making good progress, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism police officer told. Delivering an update on the police investigation outside New Scotland Yard on Tuesday, the Metropolitan police deputy deputy commissioner, Neil Basu, told 38 people were ensure by medical staff in the aftermath of the” reckless, despicable and targeted” attack.

Of those, 34 have been assessed and discharged and one more person is still being monitored as an outpatient but is not showing signs of illness. Previously, police had said 21 people had been affected.

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Theresa May: highly likely Russia is behind Salisbury spy attack- video

In an interview earlier on Tuesday, Johnson repeated May’s ultimatum to the Kremlin that it must explain by midnight on Tuesday if it was behind the attack, or if it had allowed the deadly nerve agent novichok to get into the incorrect hands.

” If they can come up with a convincing rationale, then patently we will want to see full disclosure of that to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague ,” Johnson said.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Russia had requested access to the substance to perform its own checks but any such requests had been refused. May’s spokesman hit back at Lavrov’s suggestion that Britain could be violating the chemical weapons convention.

” The UK fully complies with all of its obligations for the purposes of the chemical weapons convention ,” the spokesman told.” Under the chemical weapons convention, nations have the mechanism to consult but there is no requirement to do so .”

Quick guide

What is novichok?

Novichok refers to a group of nerve agents that were developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970 s and 1980 s to elude international restrictions on chemical weapons. Like other nerve agents, the objective is organophosphate compounds, but the chemicals are applied to induce them, and their final structures are considered classified in the UK, the US and other countries. By constructing the agents in secret, from unfamiliar chemicals, the Soviet Union is also intended to manufacture the substances without being impeded.

” Much less is known about the novichoks than the other nerve agents ,” said Alastair Hay, an ecological toxicologist at the University of Leeds who analyse the use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in 1988.” They are not widely used at all .”

The most potent of the novichok substances are considered to be more lethal than VX, the most deadly of the familiar nerve agents, which include sarin, tabun and soman.

And while the novichok agents work in a similar way, by massively over-stimulating muscles and glands, one chemical weapons expert told the Guardian that the agents do not degrade fast in the environment and have “an additional toxicity”. ” That extra toxicity is not well understood, so I understand why people were asked to wash their clothes, even if it was present merely in tracings ,” he said. Treatment for novichok exposure would be the same as for other nerve agents, namely with atropine, diazepam and potentially drugs called oximes.

The chemical structures of novichok agents were made public in 2008 by Vil Mirzayanov, a former Russian scientist living in the US, but the structures have never been publicly confirmed. It is thought that they can be made in different forms, including a dust aerosol that would be easy to disperse.

The novichoks are known as binary agents because they become lethal merely after mixing two otherwise harmless components. According to Mirzayanov, the objective is 10 to 100 times more toxic than the conventional nerve agents.

The fact that so little is known about them may explain why Porton Down scientists took several days to identify the compound used in the two attacks against Sergei and Yulia Skripal. While laboratories around the world that are used to police chemical weapons incidents have databases of nerve agents, few outside Russia are believed to have full details of the novichok compounds and the chemicals needed to stimulate them.

Photograph: Matt Cardy/ Getty Images Europe

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