A London-based HIV campaigner’s tweet about reaching his 50th birthday has prompted a big response on Twitter.
The reason? When Matthew Hodson was first diagnosed positive almost 20 years ago, in the early days of anti-retroviral medication, he wasn’t sure he would live this long.
‘Thanks for all the birthday wishes. When I was diagnosed w/ #HIV, almost 20 years ago, my hope was to live to 50. Job done. Treatment works.’
Accompanying the message are photos of Hodson when younger and today.
Hodson was formerly the head of gay men’s health charity GMFA, and is now the Chief Executive of HIV information charity, NAM. He has been fighting HIV stigma and educating gay men about sexual health for much of the last two decades. He’s also a part-time actor and has recently appeared in several theatre productions.
Talking to GSN, he explained his thoughts behind the tweet in more detail.
‘I was diagnosed with HIV in 1998. By that time we had effective combination therapy and researchers were talking optimistically of “near normal life-expectancy” but I found that hard to believe.
‘I imagined I would carry the visible signs of HIV infection: the sunken cheeks, the buffalo hump. I still expected to die early. I reckoned that 50 was about as far as I was going to get.
‘Celebrating my 50th birthday this week was pretty special. I still feel fit and healthy. I work out and run. I have the energy to work a fulltime job and dash off and perform in a show in the evening.
‘It’s time that we changed the narrative about HIV’
‘I feel far removed from the all too common perception of someone living with HIV, which has barely changed since the mid-80s. I want people to know the good news about the effectiveness of HIV treatment. I want to challenge the stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV face, all too often from within the communities most affected.
‘It’s time that we changed the narrative about HIV. There is no need for us to be fearful or ashamed. We can live long and full lives. On effective treatment we do not pose a transmission risk to our sexual partners. We are not limited by this virus.’
Happy birthday, Matthew!