Myths around HIV being a ‘gay man’s disease’ persist, as one Sydney woman discovered
Five years ago, Abby Landy felt ill and was breaking out in cold sores, and a former lover had sent her an ominous text: “I hope you remember me forever”.
Her doctor told her the chances of her contracting HIV were “slim” given she was a heterosexual woman living in Australia.
But when she googled the symptoms, Landy began to think the doctor was wrong.
To mark National Day of Women Living with HIV, the 28-year-old revisited her diagnosis.
Her doctor, she says, told her “You’re an Australian woman” and she shouldn’t worry. When she insisted on an HIV test, she remembers clearly the look on her doctor’s face.
“I told her what the guy had said so she ordered the test and I got a call back about three days later asking me to come back in,” Landy told news.com.au.
“I was still really crook at this point and the doctor was really visibly distressed. She said, ‘I’m so sorry but it looks like you’ve contracted HIV’.
Having no idea what being HIV positive in 2012 meant, she feared the worst, until a specialist assured her she was going to be fine.
“He said, ‘Look, it’s a really manageable chronic illness. You take a couple of pills a day. People live next to normal lives’. And that’s when I thought, ‘OK, life does continue’.”
According to the National Association of People with HIV Australia, the test for HIV is often overlooked.
AIDS Action Council’s Philippa Moss told the ABC stigma is part of the reason.
“Women are far too often silenced, and their experiences are unrecognised and unaddressed because women don’t meet the stereotype of the so-called typical person who’s going to contract HIV,” Moss said.
“HIV is seen to be a gay man’s disease, when in fact it’s not.”
Abby Landy photo supplied.