CONTENT WARNING: This story discusses drug use and mental health. If this story raises any issues for you, please call DirectLine on 1800 888 236 or QLife on 1800 184 527.

Dan first found out he was HIV positive from his counsellor who was managing a Harm Reduction Program at the time. At the time, he had just got out of prison, had completely lost contact with his family and felt like he was essentially out on his own. Within days he was sleeping rough and had returned to IV drug use.

Dan had been sharing needles for a while, and told us that he really didn’t care too much – he was just focussed on having a wack and didn’t really think about catching anything.

“I spoke with my counsellor one day because I had been sick for days, raging temperature and felt really bad. I thought it was the gear I was using.”

The counsellor arranged for Dan to see a doctor and get tests to understand what was going on.

He tested positive for HIV.

“Hearing that I was HIV positive was like someone was writing my death notice in the beginning. Even though the doctor told me there was treatment available, my immediate reaction was to use drugs even more heavily. I thought that I would die anyway.”

Fast forward almost 4 years, Dan has been on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and reflects on the impact that being HIV positive has had.

“The fact that I am HIV positive has opened a new life to me. I am no longer an active drug user. I have friends, colleagues and support. Many of my friends are also HIV positive and we support each other.”

“HIV does not define who we are but it motivates us to live a healthy life, to work together and change peoples’ views about HIV. We are not dirty - we have a disease. Our disease is manageable with treatment.”

“I now take responsibility for myself, and I take responsibility for my community.”

Dan now works in the harm reduction space and works closely with addicts and people in the community to teach them about safe sex and refers people to NSPs and harm reduction services.

For more information about HIV, we’ve created this helpful resource on AIDS/HIV or you can reach out to your local support service.

*We've used a pseudo name out of respect for keeping this young person's identity private