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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 12:33 GMT
'A time to celebrate'

As part of a BBC series on Aids, people living with HIV from around the world tell their own stories in their own words.

Family looks in the window of a shop featuring Christmas decorations
In true Dickensian style, Philip may not have a home after Christmas

Philip, who lives in the UK, faces eviction from his accommodation after Christmas, but he still thinks there is room to look on the bright side.

There is a wonderful scene in an old Bette Davis film called Dark Victory - she's been having "health problems" and her doctor/lover has rather carelessly left her chart out where she can find it. She is leafing idly through it and comes across something rather curious.

"Wainwright!", she says to her nurse. "What does 'prognosis' mean?"

Wainwright, who has better things on her mind, answers without looking up: "That's what the future of a case looks like."

Bette, visibly steeling herself, asks again in a slightly brittle tone: "What does 'negative' mean?"

Wainwright, who seems to have little concept of confidentiality, cavalierly replies: "That's not so good. That means 'hopeless'."

A vague wave of unease then crosses the nurse's mind and she looks up to see the door swinging from the force of Bette's departure in search of her lover.

The scene played in my mind the day I went for my test results at my London clinic in January of this year. I had had four previous tests, each six months apart, and had got used to the doctor breezing in and telling me to get out and stop wasting his time.

It was not to be the case this time! It appeared I had dodged one too many bullets and when I looked up at the doctor I was more than a little nonplussed when she informed me in hallowed tones of my now positive status.

Careful as I had been, and believe me there was no-one more scrupulous than I had been about safer sex, I had now become infected.

Anticipation and hope

It will soon be a year since my sero-conversion.

So what exactly should I expect from my first anniversary?

A celebration might seem slightly morbid, rather like applauding the knife thrower for slicing off his wife's ear, but at least not actually killing her.

But in a way, maybe it is a time to celebrate.

I have achieved a great deal this year. It may appear to some to be rather negative, but I guess that all depends from which viewpoint I choose to look at it.

As long as I have good friends to help me along the way and the great medical support that has impressed me so much over the last year, then I can face anything that is to come
A year on, I think a re-evaluation is perhaps called for. Where do I intend to go now that I have adjusted to this new presence in my life?

More and more nowadays I am aware of the choices I am given in my life and also aware that in spite of myself I still tend to avoid what I want to do and get stuck on the words "ought" and "should" too much.

You know, strangely, after a year of stepping out with my little viral friend, I think the thing I feel most of all is anticipation and hope.

Hope for many things really - hope that medication is still a long way off for me; hope that that same medication improves and that my friends who are on it can feel happier and healthier; hope that I can survive another year, not from the HIV, but from all the other nasties that threaten my happiness; hope that my counsellor doesn't run away to raise sheep in the outback.

The outlook is not too inspiring, but positive thought is a wonderful thing.

I earn next to nothing and my job, which I love, is only part time - how will I survive? I am being thrown out of my accommodation just after Christmas - how Dickensian is that!

Where will I live?

My wonderful consultant, who thoughtlessly is taking time off now to have a baby, has finally succeeded in convincing me to start taking anti-depressants - how long will that last?

Well, surprisingly, in spite of all this I am facing the next year with a spring in my step and a festive basketful of condoms on my dresser.

It is a fallacy that things can't get any worse, of course they can, why couldn't they?

But as long as I have good friends to help me along the way and the great medical support that has impressed me so much over the past year, then I guess I can face anything that is to come and celebrate the first anniversary, not for catching the virus, but for the strength I have developed in order to adapt to living this new life.

BBC News Online was put in touch with Philip through the National Aids Trust (NAT), a British HIV and Aids policy development and advocacy organisation.

The following reflect a balance of the comments we received:

You seem like a real fighter
Maribelle, Stockholm, Sweden
I know this may not be the most joyful thing you might hear, but many of us are ill. I have a friend who is dying of overweight and diabetes. My brother is dying from alcoholism. What makes me nuts is the fact that they have brought these illnesses upon themselves. It doesn't seem like you have done that, so don't punish yourself for that! When you walk down the street, you might think that the people you see appear healthier than you, but many have illnesses that are disguised: that slim woman in the stylish clothes might be anorexic. Your last paragraph in your article is fantastic: something everyone could use. It seems to me that you have discovered a way of surviving and carrying on. Never underestimate the power of good friends and family! Good luck to you: you seem like a real fighter.
Maribelle, Stockholm, Sweden

Hey Philip, good to read about your life, and how you are coping. Your sense of humour shines through: it will be your sense of humour that keeps you going. That and your positive thoughts. Thank you for being brave enough to speak about your situation. By speaking out you give inspiration to others to be strong.
Tom Doody, Bangkok, Thailand

God will give you the strength to pull through. Don't ever give up. I will always put you in my prayers and my thoughts.
Dillis Nwokedi, Lagos, Nigeria

Dearest, Philip, I feel I must send a message to you. Eight years ago I lost my best friend, my son Jason to Aids. He was 25 years young. From being diagnosed to dying it was 18 months, bless him. You are right to keep that festive basket full of condoms on your dresser, because I am fairly sure that if you get infected with another strain of the HIV virus it takes hold that much quicker. Good man, keep being positive, eat healthy and keep focused. I am living in Finland now - what am I doing in Finland you may ask. This is how God works in mysterious ways. When Jason was dying he was holding my hand tight and saying 'who will look after you now?'

Three years on and a lot of tears I met this man from Finland, had to learn this awfully hard language, work on a building site cleaning up after builders, finally to end up working in a mission. There I helped them to put together their first Aids day service. I have spoken in a school in England, and helped the students put together a booklet on Aids for young people, dedicated to Jason. What I'm saying Phillip is you can turn your situation around into a positive one. God bless you this Christmas and always. If you need a place to live I have a flat in England to let, sorry it's not in the big city though, it's Somerset.
Jacqueline Heather Rehumäki, Vantaa, Finland

Philip, I watched that scene from Dark Victory years ago, and it has been seared on my mind ever since. I never saw the credits roll, so I had no idea what I had watched. Nobody to whom I mentioned the scene ever recognised the film from my rambling description either - which included Bette's line at the restaurant with her doctor/lover: "Let's see, I'll have a large order of ... prognosis negative." I'm happy to read that you yourself seem to be ordering off a decidedly more cheerful menu! Thanks very much for connecting my dots.
Baj, Montreal, Canada

Hi Philip, I would like to thank you for sharing your HIV story and send you good wishes for the future. I was especially interested in your account because it matches my own scenario in many ways. I was also diagnosed positive in January '03, having previously tested negative on many occasions. Like you I have had to try and re-evaluate my situation and at the same time school myself in the art of being positive about being positive. I am convinced this is the best approach, certainly sensible/logical, albeit sometimes a little difficult. Anyway, I don't want to rabbit on, but again let me say I wish you well, particularly in finding new accommodation and hope you get to use your Christmas condom supply.
Derek Chalcraft, Vancouver, Canada

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