Mine was a fairly late diagnosis and I felt emotionally in crisis and scared. Joining the group and meeting supportive and welcoming guys helped me realise that life can go on. The meetings still help me and I enjoy giving help to other positive guys. So much of society is against us so we need to stick up for ourselves.

- diagnosed HIV+ in 2006 and a member of GMG since 2006.

I was diagnosed as HIV positive in December 2015. As a newly diagnosed person you don’t have any idea where to go, or what to do once you’ve received what seems to be, at that stage, a death sentence. All I could do was try and find answers on Google. Two good picks were the Ian Charleson Clinic at the Royal Free Hospital, and the Gay Men’s Group (GMG).

I had my first consultation at Royal Free,  I was quickly summoned back, my prognosis was critical, viral load in the millions and CD count below 30. Not that I understood any of this, I did not realise the severity. I was already scheduled to go abroad for the holiday period. That holiday saw my mental health deteriorate rapidly to the extent that it reached suicidal levels. My HIV status diagnosis brought to the surface the underlying career burnout that was dormant until that stage. In essence everything that was me felt compromised, and imploded all at once. Once back in the UK, I started medical treatment mid January.

I also heard back from the Gay Men’s Group (GMG), and attended my first session towards the end of January. This literally saved my life in the following ways:

You were among people that were living with HIV, some in excess of 30 years. They were alive, they were healthy, their lives did not end with HIV. In fact they were just people with a chronic disease living a normal life.

Hope: Yes you could love again and have sex and have a relationship. Through the groups’ boldness and courage you learn how to deal with perceived stigma. That in return helps to give you strength and knowledge to be equipped when you land in similar situations. You accept yourself as an individual with a disease, you are not the disease.

There is so much knowledge, much gained through sheer and difficult experiences. The members were prepared to discuss any topic, sensitive or not, and not just HIV related and advise accordingly. The basics is what you needed to know.

Physically my medicine was working, my viral load dropped dramatically to less and CD4 count increased to 454. The critical area was mental. Transforming from being HIV negative, which you have lived as all your life, instantly to someone who is HIV positive, and seeing what happens.

Being among others just like you, hearing their stories, which in most cases could be far worse than your own, provided that light in the tunnel. I was able to identify with these individuals, the future was not that uncertain anymore. I learned to manage and eventually erase the paranoia. From the group you consciously pick the personalities that you consider as role models. Some of those became dear friends, friendships that will last a lifetime.

Those suicidal thoughts started to disappear. I started picking up the pieces of my life and remodel into a ‘new you’, based on the experiences of others who had already been able to do so. The group provided me with the tools that were needed to continue this life in a positive proactive manner.

I consider myself as extremely fortunate to firstly being diagnosed in this country with the excellent NHS services and secondly by picking the Gay Men’s Group (GMG) that helped to make me whole again, and in some aspects a better human again on a mental level.

In every life there are critical influences. Medicine can fix you on a physiological level but in this instance the psychiatric healing was facilitated through the souls that were much further down the road than where you found yourself. The Gay Men’s Group (GMG) made this possible by bringing those souls together, and I will be eternally grateful for this. It literally saved my life.

- diagnosed HIV+ in 2015 and Joined GMG in 2016.

I was referred to GMG by my psychologist and can honestly say, that for me it has really helped me through a dark chapter in my life, the guys have been very supportive and given me confidence being in a group situation, which I wasn’t very good at. I’ve even made a good friendship with another member, and that is what I needed plus the social events with the group have helped me be more interactive. I highly recommend this group as they are friendly easy to talk with and suffice it to say it has been a real boon for me.

- diagnosed HIV+ in 1994 and Joined GMG in 2015.

After a long abusive relationship, I found myself with no friend’s or confidence and scared.

I joined the Gay Men’s Group (+GMG), and found support, and great friend’s – in a short time I’ve come a long way. I am happy and living my life again, and that’s why I was so proud to wear the +GMG t-shirt in this year’s London Gay Pride march (2014).

- diagnosed HIV+ in 1992 and Joined GMG in 2014.

When I was diagnosed with HIV I felt alone, numb and scared. I was overwhelmed with hatred towards the guy who gave me the virus and anger at myself for being so stupid.

Going to the GMG meetings meant I could talk openly without fear of prejudice. I gradually learnt HIV needn’t rule my life. I felt normal again and made new friends in the process.

- diagnosed HIV+ in 2010 and a member of GMG since 2012.

I moved to America to live with my partner, who had a big family (after growing up in a children’s home, that was something I really loved). When he died I came back to England, I self-medicated with drugs and going “up the heath”, eventually becoming HIV +ve. Being by myself, not knowing anybody else who was also positive, I felt pretty lonely. Finally I met someone from this group at a social occasion and he suggested I try coming along.

The group has changed my life, it is somewhere I can completely out pour my feelings – not just problems, but also sharing the good times. Also for the first time in years, I’ve learnt to listen, be more sensitive, mindful and understanding towards others. It has become my new family.

- diagnosed HIV+ in 2005 and Joined GMG in 2012.

When I think of all the gifts this group has given me,
I feel the glow of what you gave still deep inside of me.
For you shared part of yourself and filled my life with pleasure.
This for me, will always be my greatest gift to treasure.

… “Simple Gifts”

- diagnosed HIV+ in 1986 and Joined GMG in 2011.

After being diagnosed I was very angry, alone and upset. For a few years of missed clinic appointments and a element of denial I contacted the Gay Men’s Group (the group was recommended to me by the Patient’s Representative from my clinic).

Since I contacted the group my life has changed: I now understand my HIV, the disease, medication and how it affects my life. I also engaged in the social activates the group organise and have made some very good friends.

This group has changed my life . Thank you.

- diagnosed HIV+ in 2009 and Joined GMG in 2010.

Before I was introduced to the Gay Men’s Group I was very lonely and didn’t know how to deal with my emotions, stress and sexuality. I didn’t know anyone else who was also positive, nor did I have any gay friends.

The GMG has changed my outlook on life to a positive one and over the years I have found true friendship and I am now happy, content and actively involved within the LGBT Community.

- diagnosed HIV+ in 1990 and a member of GMG since 2006.

After attending a newly diagnosed course, I still felt  very lost. The course had been a great place to start for information, but I only absorbed a little of it. It had been a great leveler, attending a group of mixed gender, ethnicity and sexuality – anyone can be affected by HIV. I only kept in touch with the couple of gay men that were on the course, unfortunately one; Tom, committed suicide. He was young and firebrand, very confident one moment but completely vulnerable the next. Needless to say I was shaken.

Six months after diagnosis, I was still not on medication, but the results weren’t encouraging either. I was also still very uncomfortable disclosing my status – aside from the newly diagnosed course, I knew no one else who was HIV positive. So I acted on some information I received during the course and went along to the Gay Men’s Group. I did take another two months before coming back, but I knew I needed an outlet to come to terms with my status.

Over time I was able to find acceptance by listening to others, with the shared knowledge and wealth of experience that is exchanged at the group. It also made it a lot easier being able to discuss starting medication, I felt more comfortable having another perspective than just what I was told at the GUM clinic. Finally, over time, the group has offered so much more, as a place where many new friendships have been forged.

- diagnosed HIV+ in 2002 and Joined GMG in 2002.

When first diagnosed the group assisted me greatly through a very traumatic period. Since then I have made some wonderful friendships via the group – the groups’ social side is one of it’s greatest strengths. GMG is extremely adept at welcoming, befriending and assisting new members. Long may that continue …

- diagnosed HIV+ in 1999 and Joined GMG in 2002.

After a period of ill health, I looked for the support of other HIV+ gay men and found just what I needed as a member of the GMG. The friendships that have been made within the group are truly inspiring. Knowledge is power!

Martin (Founder Member)
- diagnosed HIV+ in 1987 and Joined GMG ( Body Positive ) in 1995.

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