My reaction to my HIV story being out there…
Last month I took the decision to tell the world I was HIV+.
After a tough 18 months in business and after a couple of not so nice dealings with people in my day to day job of running my marketing agency LeftMedia I decided to post about being HIV positive on LinkedIn.
The reason I shared something so personal? To do my bit to remove the stigma that is still attached to HIV and people living with it. HIV is still something alien to most people and the more people talk openly about it, the more everyone will know about the disease. Eventually removing the stigma altogether (hopefully!)
Things have gone a little bit mental since my post.
Being interviewed about my HIV story
Not too long after posting about becoming HIV positive I received an email from Jenny Brookfield at TechNorth. She approached me about being interviewed about the post and my story for the TechNorth site, a well known “initiative charged with accelerating the growth of the digital business sector in the North of England.”
You can imagine how excited I was. But also quite nervous. Talking about it on LinkedIn seemed different somehow. I’d been connected with most of my connections for a little while and although I didn’t know everyone personally, I felt it was quite safe to share something personal there. Despite the “this isn’t Facebook” brigade.
The focus of the article on TechNorth was on how becoming HIV positive changed my perspective on business and life in general. Although HIV is not a death sentence now and treatment is fantastic, it is still a life changing event which can have a huge emotional and mental impact on your life. It felt like the end of the world when I was told I was positive back in January 2016 and it took me many months to come to terms with it – all whilst trying to grow my business.
That got me thinking about the struggles and problems people have going on in their personal lives when they go to work or run a business. What can appear to the outside world as the perfect life can sometimes be anything but. In a world where people compare themselves to the latest “influencer” on Instagram or vlogger on Youtube – it’s sometimes hard to remember that we’re all human and we all have our private struggles. Even those “perfect” social media types.
My new perspective? Be nice in business.
It might seem cynical but I was amazed and shocked by the positive reaction to my post. There were a few not so nice comments like “you should have wrapped up” as you’d expect in 2017 on social media platforms, but the overwhelming majority of people have shown me support.
People have messaged me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter saying how brave it was to post about a sensitive subject but something I’ve learnt over the past year is that being more open and honest is beneficial to me. Perhaps a little selfish, but talking about things has helped me deal with my diagnosis and normalise being HIV positive in my own head.
Being featured in Greater Manchester Business Week & Manchester Evening News
Things got even crazier when the Manchester Evening News and the lovely Lucy Roue picked up my story.
Having a double page spread in the Greater Manchester Business Week wasn’t something I’d thought about when I was writing my LinkedIn post but I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to raise the issue in front of some of Manchester business leaders.
On the Sunday morning of the post going live on the Manchester Evening News website I woke up to lots of Twitter and LinkedIn notifications wondering what the hell had happened overnight. When I clicked through to one of the links there was my huge forehead staring back at me. An odd feeling when you’ve just woken up on a Sunday morning.
I’m beyond happy to have been able to share my story and received such a positive (excuse the pun) response from everyone who has read it. Hopefully I will have helped in a small way to open up the conversation about HIV, especially in business and the workplace.
I have some hopefully exciting news to share about working with Survivors Manchester in the coming months. In the meantime, I will be focusing on growing my marketing agency. I’ve got some big plans for it and have had some really exciting meetings off the back of some of the coverage I’ve got sharing my story.
If anyone who is coming to terms with being HIV positive and needs someone to talk to or you’d like any advice on how to start your own business, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.