Sanjeev's story

Home»Living with HIV»Positive Voices»Sanjeev's story
Post by David Menadue07 Dec 2012

Until he migrated to Australia in 2006, Sanjeev remembers very little mention of HIV in Malaysia.

In a country where being gay is still a social and religious taboo, he recalls even less about its particular threat for gay men.

"As a child I recall my mother telling me not to bring home a rather 'camp' school friend I’d made," says Sanjeev, whose Indian background he describes as religious and very conservative.

"She didn’t think he was the sort of person our family should mix with. So to this day, I have never broached the subject with any member of my family."

Sanjeev is still working on how out he can be about his sexuality, even in a more accepting society like Australia.

"When I found out I was HIV positive in 2008, it added to the secrecy I carry around with me and to the level of stigma I feel," he says.

Sanjeev has not had any sex since his diagnosis because he can’t bring himself to go through any sexual negotiation around his status. He also has "a few trust issues" as he felt deceived during the episode when he became positive.

"My level of understanding about HIV was minimal when I came to Australia," he says. "I knew you could pick it up through sexual intercourse and that you couldn’t catch it from kissing and casual contact."

But he didn’t have any deeper understanding about the relative risks of contracting HIV.

Sanjeev has found it difficult to talk to anyone about his status, even within his friendship networks.

"I am a very private person," he says. "My Indian grandmother had a great influence on me. She taught me to keep your feelings to yourself and to respect the social standing of your family by not sharing too many personal details."

His greatest confidante has been his doctor in Melbourne who has taken excellent care of him. She guided him through a bumpy introduction to antiretrovirals where it took three regimens to get things right.

"She also recommended that I adopt a gradual approach to telling others," says Sanjeev, "even to the amount of involvement I have with HIV agencies and the like."

Even so, Sanjeev has found attending a seven-week peer support course at the Positive Living Centre in Melbourne a highly valuable experience. "I felt safe there. I could say things without being judged or told: 'It’s wrong to think that'. Being able to speak my mind on these issues was a great thing for me."

These days, Sanjeev volunteers for an HIV agency. But until he decides where he stands on the issue of sex as an HIV-positive gay man, he is taking his time deciding who to tell about his status.