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Published: 20 February 2024

Living with HIV, breaking the stigma
By Steve Bamford, peer mentor and fundraiser

Steve BamfordSome of you will know me from my fundraising work and my role as a peer mentor with the Talking Together group.

My name is Steve Bamford. I'm in my early 50’s, a network professional and I'm gay.

I was diagnosed with HIV in 2018. At the time of my diagnosis, I had no knowledge of HIV medication or that I could lead a normal life.

It was when the doctor visited me in hospital and talked through these things that I began to see some hope. There was no judgement, no questions about how I may of acquired HIV, it was all about the next steps, although I still spent time googling and searching the internet, which was possibly the worst thing I could do!

I was worried about my first visit to the Clover Street Clinic in Chatham and how I would be treated, what would be said, would there be stigma? But when I spoke with my HIV nurse, there was no pressure to disclose anything.

I was offered support and reassurance, as well as sexual health screening. All positive steps, my fears put to rest. I could now concentrate on getting well. Stigma and discrimination do not exist within the team around my sexual orientation or my diagnosis - I can say this hasn’t always been the case with other providers.

Joining the Talking Together group has meant that I am able to talk to others in Kent living with HIV in a safe space, where sexuality, gender, race are never a barrier, as they have not been throughout my engagements with members of KCHFT.

The group has enabled me to become comfortable to the point where I now support others as a peer mentor. What impresses me so much is that on attending the national conference for people living with HIV in 2021, KCHFT was one of the very few trusts who offered peer support to their service users.

Without a shadow of doubt, that early support from the Sexual Health Team at clover street, and the continued ongoing professional care, has brought me to this position, where truly I am living a normal life - even getting to a point where I only need one tablet a day. Mentally, this was such a boost.

Now, I look at ways that I can support KCHFT through fundraising for it's charity iCare, so that we can train more mentors to support others living with HIV in Kent.