Max is HIV positive, Alex is not. They started dating two years ago, just after Max knew she was living with HIV.
Both participated in a major HIV transmission study that showed that an HIV-positive person who was receiving effective treatment could not transmit the virus by sex.
The couple shared their story with BBC Radio 5 hoping to inspire more people to be tested and to remove some stigmas that still exist.
I was 24 years old when I found out that I was HIV positive. FWhat a shock, a blow in the stomach. When they told me, I started crying. I did not know what to do. Should I go back to work or take a break in my life? Do I have to tell anyone? How will I now find a boyfriend?
The assistant at the clinic where they gave me the results embraced me and said, "Do not worry, everything will be fine."
As we did the test on a regular basis, I discovered it at a very early stage, and that was good news because the sooner the treatment starts, the better.
The HIV medicine works by reduces the amount of virus in blood at undetectable levels. This means that the virus can not be transmitted while having sex, even without a condom.
Taking the medication I need is something quite easy:no more I need one pill a day at dinner. Patients with type 1 diabetes require four or five injections per day.
Being HIV positive cost me more than my physical mind: the anxiety I feel when I have to tell others about my illness.
My diagnosis was told to my closest friends and family. Most of them responded wonderfully, but not all of them supported me.
A friend, a sort of mentor for me, said to me, "Honestly, I would not seek or have sex with anyone with HIV. He would always have been asking if he was taking his medication or not. "
I felt that labeling people with HIV is "imprudent" and as "responsible" for avoiding contact with people like me.
This vision emerged in the 1980s, when HIV was considered a personal failure or a death sentence. People still associate HIV with these tombstone images on TV or with Princess Diana embracing people with AIDS in the hospital.
Many then refused to touch people with HIV and many more to have intimate contact. But today, those of us living with HIV can expect to live as much as any other person.
The mentor's reaction really affected me. I've started panic attacks. I never experienced them before, but I could not breathe. I could not even go out.
I met Alex shortly after I learned he was living with HIV. We were both academics and we were interested in gender and sexuality issues, so a relationship was born. He already knew I was HIV positive, so it was not something I had to mention.
I'm not sure at which point we no longer use condoms when you maintain relationships sex. I did not see him agitated, but I worried that he would feel pressured not to use condoms to make me feel better.
Last year, I participated in the study partner, which has overwhelmingly demonstrated this people HIV can have sex without preservative and not transmit virus if they have adequate treatment.
I think that if more people knew this, there would be far less fear or stigma on HIV and no one would have any doubt about getting tested.
How HIV treatment works
- HIV is treated with antiretroviral drugs that stop replication of the virus.
- The amount of blood virus is then measured to see how well the treatment works.
- It may take up to six months for this viral load to become undetectable.
- People with HIV who receive effective HIV treatment and whose viral load has not been detected for six months or longer can not transmit the virus by sex.
- The NHS, the British public health service, says condom is the most effective way to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STDs).
"The first impression we had on Max was this he was very sure of himself.
I met him at a political conference of the Green Party of the United Kingdom. I was with a group of gay young people – probably we were quite intimidating collectively – and that's how it came and said, "Hi."
I found this I was HIV positive days after I met him, when he posted it on his Facebook post next to a photo of his medication.
One of the reasons I was attracted to him was that he was so open when he talked about having HIV. I have always admired her confidence and refusal to be subject to social pressure.
I also liked the fact that, even when dealing with the impact of his diagnosis, he devoted some of his time and emotional energy to trying to help others.
We met a few months after this conference, and that started it all.
not I was scared outpositivenot at all. On the contrary, I felt sad because I knew that after diagnosis, I suffered a rejection from other people.
If I did sex without condoms, I did not worry about contracting HIV at all, because I knew my friend was taking his medication.
I trust him fully. Some people say people suffering from this virus can not take their medication, but this is just a bias. If you live with HIV, your health depends on the administration of that pill daily. It's not something you forget.
I did not tell my whole family that Max is HIV-positive, I do not think it's so important.
I told my parents before I took him home for dinner but only because he took his pill for dinner and did not want me to get up from the table to do it.
It is a shame that it was not revealed better than HIV can not be transmitted. Too many people suffer from stigma around the disease for no reason.
People's opinions about HIV are anchored in the past. We have to lead the change. "