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Personal story: Zoe

I decided I couldn't live in fear any longer

Portrait of an independent female African traveler
Photo credit: ©iStock/AzmanL. Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour.

"I was very aware of HIV and how it’s acquired. So, I was always safe with my partners and tested regularly (three or four times a year). That is, until one time. I was drinking and had unprotected sex with my boyfriend. But he was my boyfriend, I’d known him for six months and knew his HIV status… so I didn't really worry. We were only really concerned about pregnancy and so took the morning after pill.

Two weeks later, I realised something wasn’t right and I started finding out more about HIV online. The worst weekend of my life followed. I was convinced I had HIV. I even started joining online communities for people living with HIV as I was convinced that I was HIV positive.

Some weeks after the exposure night, I decided I couldn't live in fear any longer - it was draining me. I couldn't sleep, my appetite would come and go, I was always choked up and ready to cry at the drop of a hat when someone asked, ‘Are you okay?’

So, I went to the clinic and got tested. My heart was racing as the test was underway and it felt like I would fall to the ground (lack of sleep and I hadn't been eating). I sat down to see the nurse and she did some counselling before giving me my results. I couldn't even hear or understand what she was saying as my heartbeat was thunderous in my ears, ‘And you are HIV negative’. That’s all I heard. Those words changed my life and I immediately felt well. I changed my views on sex and alcohol has never touched my lips since.

Getting tested was the greatest thing I did for myself because my entire lifestyle changed after that. Knowing I was healthy made me appreciate life and do my best to keep myself that way. Get tested so you can know how to manage your health, be it an HIV negative or positive lifestyle."

What we say

Deciding how to manage your relationships and communicate your preferences to your sexual partners can be very challenging. Talking about how to protect yourself and your partner from STIs and HIV, as well as unwanted pregnancy, before you’re ‘in the moment’ is good for your sexual and mental health. If you feel you’ve put yourself at risk, then get tested immediately to avoid the worry and negative mental health impact that putting it off can have.

Do you have your own story to tell? Click the link to share it with us!

These personal stories have been submitted to us anonymously by individuals who use our site. Some of the stories have been edited for clarity purposes and names have been changed to protect identities.

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  • Last updated: 14 November 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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