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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
'Young must take HIV seriously'
Rupert Whittaker was diagnosed with HIV 20 years ago
It is 20 years since Aids first emerged in the UK. The Terrence Higgins Trust was the first charity to be set up in response to the epidemic. It was named after one of the first British men to die from the disease.

His partner 39-year-old Rupert Whittaker tells the BBC about his experiences over the past two decades and warns young people to take the disease seriously.

Rupert Whittaker was diagnosed as HIV positive 20 years ago. At the time, he believed he had just months to live.

"In 1982, Terry died really very suddenly. Shortly after Terry died, I became ill myself and I didn't expect to live longer than a year.

I can still do all the things that I care to

"People really were dying within weeks and months of getting sick."

Twenty years on, Rupert lives a full and active life.

"I can still do all the things that I care to do such as jujitsu and I compete internationally.

"I love motorcycling. I'm a professional classical singer, which is a sport in itself - it's very challenging and I love gardening."

Treatment advance

Rupert is one of millions of people around the world who have benefited from advances in HIV treatment.

"I take 25 pills a day. If I don't take them then I can become very vulnerable to the virus again.

"It can start taking over my body and I can eventually become prone to infections. That means a death sentence.

"Twenty years ago, we knew absolutely nothing about this. Nowadays, we have an enormous amount of information and knowledge about how to protect ourselves and how to take responsibility for ourselves.

I'm worried that young people think that HIV is easily treated

"But I see young people not doing that. I'm worried that young people think that HIV is easily treated, that there are no problems with the treatment regimes, that there are no such things as side effects, there are no such things as prejudice, that they won't necessarily be deported from the country because of it. They don't know what the risks are.

"I think the best way to get the message across is if people have to see what the daily reality is like.

"If people nowadays don't want to know about it they can hide from it but they are putting their heads in the sand. It is going to hit them one way or another."

See also:

02 Jul 02 | Health
UNAids chief urges action on HIV
02 Jul 02 | Health
Young people hit hardest by Aids
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