Liberal Democrat candidate Paul Childs talks about living with HIV

Liverpool Liberal Democrat candidate Paul Childs had been thinking of speaking publicly about his HIV status and was inspired by Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett’s powerful interview last week to do so. Nigel Farage’s horrible comments about the NHS treating foreigners with HIV in last week’s debate finally made up his mind and he contacted Buzzfeed.

He talked about how it felt when he was diagnosed:

I was never expecting it to happen. I remember being at work, sitting in a corridor and bursting into tears. I started shaking and getting really scared.” He went back to the hospital the next day. The second test was also positive.

I cried in front of the nurse – the staff were very supportive. I knew a little bit about what HIV meant because I’d done some work with a gay men’s health charity in Glasgow but I still had in my head that it was a terminal diagnosis. I asked the doctor how long I had to live.

He learned, though, that the condition could be kept under control, though:

Childs’ doctor explained that when treated properly, HIV is an entirely manageable chronic condition with a near normal life expectancy.

That simple sentence is something many people don’t realise.

Farage’s comments were pure scaremongering, he said:

This is Farage’s default position – blame the immigrants,” he said. “But you can’t keep blaming a country’s problems on immigrations. HIV is a drop in the ocean compared to what else the NHS is spending money on. We have an ageing population – by the end of the next election there could be a million people with dementia. There are much bigger issues than HIV, so why did he decide to talk about that in the debate? It’s just scaremongering, scaremongering to get votes. It’s playing on people’s ignorance and fear.

“Sometimes as politicians we know what people want to hear, but it’s your job to take the right road and say, ‘No, actually, this isn’t true, and this is what we need to be doing.’”

Childs added that successfully treating people with HIV makes them effectively uninfectious, benefiting everyone.

Paul hopes that by speaking out, he’ll help reduce the stigma around HIV and AIDS.

He hopes speaking out will embolden others and encourage everyone to learn more about the condition and get tested regularly. Ultimately, said Childs, he wants the fear and stigma drained from HIV, so it becomes a condition no politician can single out or use as a scapegoat for wider anxieties. He hopes for something else too: for HIV to be discussed as freely as any other health problem.

“I have asthma,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I can walk down the street and say my asthma’s playing up today. But I can’t say I’m having side effects from my HIV pills. I should be able to talk about HIV just as I do about asthma. Why should they be any different?”

Finally, he said that decent sex education and screening were important to limit spread of HIV:

It should be more of an opt-out thing as part of a routine health-check. In Liverpool alone it’s estimated there are 250 people who don’t know they are HIV positive. With proper testing and treatment, we could drastically reduce the rates of new infections.” The number of new cases has doubled in two decades with no new public information campaigns.

“Nick Clegg has talked about it but a lot of parties don’t seem to want to. And around the last election funding was being cut to HIV groups. More needs to be done.” Childs would also like to see compulsory sex and relationships education in all schools.

“Kids need to be taught [about it] because they’re not being told at home – someone’s got to do it.

You can read the whole interview here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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One Comment

  • Perhaps ‘enjoy’ is the wrong word for reading Paul Child’s post, but in a time of mud-slinging, this was a very progressive tonic. Thanks for linking to it here.

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