Matt is living life to the full – with HIV

Matt Nolan received his HIV diagnosis in 2009 – and has been living his life to the full ever since!

He freely admits to being promiscuous over the years, enjoying a number of sexual partners, and not worrying too much about the consequences. He felt healthy and happy and “on top of the world” although he does admit to having a feeling at the back of his mind that there was the possibility he could have contracted the virus.

“It’s something I was always aware of because I think society as a whole has a greater awareness around HIV now,” said Matt, a former painter and decorator who lives in Walsall. “But it certainly wasn’t the uppermost thing on my mind – I was too busy having fun.

“I didn’t have any symptoms but went to see my GP because I had a rash on my leg and I guess the rest is history. When I was tested my CD4 white blood cell count was 204 whichwas so close to the marker of 200 that indicates you are at high risk of developing serious illnesses and possibly AIDS.

“That gave me a wake up call because living with HIV, which can be treated, as opposed to AIDS is something that does make you suddenly take notice.”

Matt, who is gay,  is managing his condition well with medication although it can take a while to get used to.

“I didn’t feel 100 per cent right for the first three years and can recall a short period where, a bit like a switch being flicked, I had some obsessional thoughts which just weren’t right. But I knew I had to give the medication time and now I feel fine. It’s vital that people take their medication correctly as the risk of infecting someone else becomes minimal.

“I think it is important to know your status so you can take responsibility for your health and wellbeing. I would never be intimate with a partner without using protection. And I’d tell anyone who thinks they may have contracted HIV to sort out a test. There is support if you need it.”

Matt, aged 44,  remembers telling a group of friends, “all big, butch, straight men”, about his diagnosis. “A couple of them actually cried. They didn’t realise that I could still expect a long life thanks to the advances that have been made with the medication and research. Their reaction was actually quite touching.”