Robbie Lawlor finds that HIV is medically manageable but far less so socially
HIV activist Robbie Lawlor: “I urge everyone to get tested for HIV.” Photograph: Conor Gallagher
I have been living with HIV a little over four years now. To say I was surprised when I got my diagnosis is an understatement; I didn’t even know HIV existed in Ireland.
I genuinely couldn’t understand how a 21 year old who was fresh out of college and on his way to Australia was getting this diagnosis. I knew no one living with HIV in Ireland. I didn’t even know the difference between HIV and Aids.
Four years later I’m on my fourth type of medication. Currently I take just one pill a day but I have high hopes for the future. And a new trial shows a long-acting injectable antiretroviral, given once every four or eight weeks, does the job just as well as that one pill. The trial shows the injectable is safe and very well tolerated.
Medically speaking, HIV is one of the most manageable chronic conditions out there. Socially speaking, HIV is a different ballgame.
I do believe the majority of stigma is born out of ignorance. I have heard, “Oh you’re Robbie, the one with Aids.” I can’t be angry at them; they were just like me four years ago. I have had the privilege of telling my HIV story to over 1,500 young people and I know this for certain: education is the best vaccination we have against stigma. We must fight for comprehensive and compulsory sexual health education in Ireland.
I urge everyone to get tested for HIV. I was sexually active 3½ years before getting a test and it had affected my immune system. Once you know your status you can begin to manage HIV and continue living your best life.