FS Mag Upfront All good things must come to an end. My final column... As the age-old cliché goes, “all good things must come to an end”, and so it’s with the heaviest of hearts that I’m writing this, my last column for FS magazine. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, so let me explain. Last month I asked my boyfriend Mark to marry me. And like an idiot, he said yes. I’m planning to spend the rest of my life with him. It’s bloody wonderful, utterly terrifying, and very grown up, but it’s also made me think long and hard about what I can offer this column. The simple fact is this: I’m 36, my life is stable and steady, I’ve come out to my employers, I’ve come out to family, new and old, I’ve navigated life as a single man looking for sex (and hoping for love) and I’ve navigated life as a positive man with a negative partner, with all the weirdness, joy, and sometimes stress, that it brings. In short, I’m happy and settled. But it also means my story has come to a natural conclusion. And while I know it’s important for people to hear stories like mine, it’s equally important that they hear other stories. Stories from new voices who are dealing with HIV and single life like I used to. The voices of those who are newly diagnosed, and experiencing all the highs and lows that brings. Those are the powerful voices. Those are the stories that will resonate, and those are the voices this magazine needs. Because at the end of the day, this magazine is a lifeline. That’s how I see it. Over the past four years, this column has been a place where I’ve shared my deepest fears, my lowest lows, my innermost thoughts and my unbridled joys. I’ve aired my dirty laundry and I’ve shared my sometimes strong opinions—even when they’re not popular. I’ve had my advocates and detractors, in equal measure. And that’s how it should be. Because life would be boring if everyone agreed with you. It’s been a wild, wonderful ride being part of FS. So before I close my laptop and sign off for good, I want to say thank you to each and every single person who’s taken the time to reach out to me. Whether it’s been a tweet, a comment, a Facebook message or an email, it’s been a genuine honour to hear people’s stories, and an even bigger honour to be even a small part of their journeys. From those who’ve got in touch to ask questions, to those who reach out when they’re newly diagnosed and feel confused, scared and alone; to those who just write to say “Thank you. I enjoyed reading that.” And to the positive community, I say this: your stories matter. They matter so much. Wherever you are, and whoever you are — young, old, Black, white, single or not — I’ve always believed that a thousand voices talking is louder than one person shouting. This world needs people to tell their stories, so tell them. Tell anyone who will listen. Shout it from the rooftops, start a YouTube channel, open a Twitter account, or just talk with another human being. If you reach even one person and show them they’re not alone, that they CAN get through this, then you’re giving them a lifeline. And if you can change just one person’s mindset, challenge just one person’s preconceptions, and make one more dent in the wall of stigma surrounding HIV, then you’re a fucking hero. In fact, you already were, from the moment you looked in the mirror and said “I will not be beaten by this.” My work as an activist will never be over. So you’ll still find me shaking buckets on street corners, tweeting to anyone who will listen, and working in the background to do my bit. And you never know, I might gatecrash the pages of FS occasionally in the future; I never could keep my mouth shut for long. But for now, it’s time to let some powerful new voices take centre stage, while I make my way happily into the sunset. As always, thanks for reading. It’s been an honour. Kristian x PS. I’m still working on the puppy. HIV+LifeHow to disclose being HIV-positive Before you tell anyone you’re HIV-positive, it’s a good idea to make sure that you’re ready to do so, and that you understand why you want to tell them. Think about what you want in return, and be prepared for a whole range of reactions – good and bad. Think about when would be the right time to tell someone. Do you feel you need or want to tell someone – is it the right time for you? On the other hand, is it the right time for them? If they’re rushing out of the door, or busy with something else, then it’s probably not the best time. Make sure that they have the time to listen to you and also time to let it sink in. It may also be a good idea to choose to tell people in surroundings that are familiar and that you feel comfortable with. This may help to keep you calm and relaxed, especially if you are unsure about the reaction you’re going to get. Remember that you haven’t changed – you’re just giving someone a new piece of information about yourself. Be very clear where you are coming from, and it may help to explain to someone why you are telling them about having HIV. If someone finds what you’re telling them difficult to deal with, it will probably make it easier for them if you give them an idea about what you want them to do with this new information. It may also help you to get the support from people that you need. For example, you could say: “I’ve got some news – I’ve been diagnosed with HIV and I’d like some support from you” “I’m positive and I’m telling you because you’re important to me.” “I’m positive and I’m telling you because I’d rather know now if you can’t handle it.” “I’m HIV-positive and I’d rather you knew that before we had sex.” It’s important to be clear with whoever you are telling whether or not you want them to keep the news to themselves. If there are people you would like them to talk to, or people you wouldn’t mind them talking to, be clear with them who these people are. Whatever and whenever you decide to tell someone, if you need some more advice before you do then you can always ask to speak to a health advisor at your clinic, or you could talk to a professional counsellor. For help finding a counselling service that is suitable for you, call THT Direct on 0808 802 1221 or visitwww.gmfa.org.uk/help-and-support. THIS ARTICLE WAS TAKEN FROM FS ISSUE #148.