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Discovering you're Positive

THE NEEDLE AND THE DAMAGE DONE!!!!

In 1992, I was an exceptionally naive person, when it came to understanding what HIV+/ AIDS was all about!
To my uneducated mind, HIV+/AIDS were the one and the same. You either got it from using heroin, homosexual activities or through visiting prostitutes! That was it in a nutshell, so as far as I was concerned, I was safe, as none of these lifestyles applied to me. I loved my wife and my child and I was in a 'safe' working environment.
In October of 1992, I was employed by a petroleum company in Albury, New South Wales, as Maintenance Manager/Cleaner at one of their major truck stops. This was a large truck stop with a high density turnover of customers travelling along the Hume Highway. We catered for tourists, hitchhikers, locals and of course, truckies.
My duties included mowing the large lawned areas, minor building repairs, and cleaning all public and office areas of the establishment. It was during my normal duties that an incident occurred which was to change my life in a dramatic, if not horrendous way. I went into the mens toilet and shower area to do my usual cleaning duties. After having cleaned the area, I checked the contents of the toilet tissue dispenser, which consisted of a metal boxed interleave unit. This unit held two packets of interleave toilet tissues when full. The centre toilet's unit was empty of tissues so I inserted my hand into the left side of the unit to push the empty remaining packet through the bottom. I felt a sharp pain and pulled my fingers out, to find a small syringe with its needle sticking into my middle finger of my left hand. The bloody thing hurt and there was blood in the syringe.


I took the syringe to my immediate supervisor working at the cash counter. She placed it in a drawer and said she would pass it on to the Manager in the morning. That was that and I went back to my job, after using a band-aid taken from stock.
The next morning, I complained to my boss about the syringe and suggested that either we placed disposal units in the toilet or replace the dispensers. A couple of days later I replaced those dispensers with clear perspex type jumbo rolls. I gave no more thought to the matter. I was dismissed from my job in December of that year.
Three years later, I was employed by the Roads & Traffic Authority, New South Wales, as a surveyor's field hand. I had been in the job for about 9 months. We had a down day due to bad weather and we decided to donate blood. I had donated blood many times in my past, but it had been some time (years) since my last donation. A couple of weeks later, I received a phone call from the Red Cross.

 

They needed to see me urgently. When I got there, I was ushered into a room that had some people from Sydney. They told me they had some bad news. I froze, all sorts of things running through my mind. "What, Cancer ?" I blurted out. "No Wayne, I'm afraid you have tested HIV+ and we need to take some more samples for confirmation." Just like that! I had AIDS (so I thought). I refused to believe them. The questions were then fired at me. Are you gay, bisexual, do you take drugs through your veins, have you visited any prostitutes lately, have you had any major operations recently?? NO! to all questions. They told me I had obviously been exposed somehow! Then I told them about the needle stick and the rest is history.
When my wife arrived to collect me. I'm afraid I wasn't too gentle in telling her. I was too devastated to consider her feelings at that stage. We adjourned to our house where I called in the family doctor to take blood from my wife and five year old son. Thankfully, those tests and subsequent tests proved negative.


Further drama arose when my wife told her best friend about my infection and before I knew it, my next door neighbour was giving me hell. My stress levels reached unbearable heights and I went into self destruct mode. I did everything to break up my marriage, including a relationship with another woman, after informing her of my status, gambling, etc.
In the meantime, my good 'Christian' doctor decided to show my files to some friends of his and I was greeted at a game of cricket which I was to umpire with, 'looks like we've got that poofter with AIDS.'


That good doctor was taken to the Discrimination Tribunal and a satisfactory outcome was reached. Suffice it to say, his hip pocket was hurt in a big way and he should be well educated on HIV+/AIDS.

 

DISCLOSURE AND ITS EFFECTS.

My wife is a very strong woman and managed to keep us together and stands firmly by my side to this day 5 years on and a blood count of 1000 and v/load below 100 I am waiting for the clock to count down. I am still angry with the way I contracted HIV+, but at least I am now well educated on the subject and am only too aware how it can strike anybody any time, given the wrong circumstances. In the meantime, my condition is subject to a lawsuit in NSW, Australia and we are awaiting that outcome, before deciding our future lifestyle.

 

Story by Wayne, 1999.

From Straight Arrows April 1999 Newsletter 'The Quiver'
Straight Arrows is a peer support group for HIV positive heterosexual men in Victoria, Australia.


 
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