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Personal story: Celani

I kept my illness secret for about 3 years, but keeping it a secret made me feel isolated from the world

African woman with dreadlocks in the city with buildings in the background
Photo credit: ©iStock/DMEPhotography. Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour.

"I was in a long-term relationship when I was diagnosed. I was faithful but my partner wasn’t. One day he called me to tell me that I needed to get tested, so I did. Next thing I know I am living with HIV.

It has now been 6 years since I was diagnosed, at the time I really thought it would be the end for me.  I felt that if I told someone that I was positive, they would judge me and look at me differently. So, I kept my illness secret for about 3 years, but keeping it a secret made me feel isolated from the world. I thought that no one would accept me or my situation, and so it stopped me from being able to find someone that I could trust at all. There are so many stereotypes around HIV, and they make life so much harder. It is tempting to just keep your status a secret.

Now I know that when it comes to HIV, it is not the illness that makes life hard but the struggle of dealing with everybody else’s perceptions of it. Stigma meant that for a long time I only thought about fear, worry and death. It was horrible and meant that at first, I lost all hope that I would be able to really live my life. But now I know that if we were to change the way we think about HIV, finding a way to view it more positively, we would treat the people with the illness much better, and it would make the world a much better place to live."

What we say

Many people are scared that telling others about their HIV status will mean that they will be judged and stereotyped but keeping it a secret can cause a lot of stress and make people feel isolated. Talking about HIV often makes people feel better and is a way we can break down harmful stigma. Celani is right, if we could change the way that everyone thinks about HIV, it would make this world a much better place to live. Read our Sharing your HIV status page for more advice on how to talk about your status.

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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