Just before Brian Sheldon turned 50, he came out as a gay man. He lived in the suburbs of Brisbane, on Australia’s east coast, with his wife of 25 years. He had two adult kids. When he and his wife separated, he had no gay friends. And the first time he had a sexual experience with another man, Brian Sheldon contracted HIV. At first he didn’t know what was wrong. He sought medical advice, but after a year of talking to doctors, being misdiagnosed with glandular fever and generally “feeling crappy,” Sheldon eventually took matters into his own hands. The qualified nurse took a sample of his own blood and sent it for testing. The positive HIV diagnosis came through just before Christmas in 2013. Sheldon had a million questions but didn’t know where to turn for answers. The GPs he worked with had little information, he couldn’t get in to see a specialist until early the following year and the HIV support groups he found were closed for the holidays. So he did what many of us do when we’re looking for help with a problem. He went online. Sheldon joined The Institute of Many, a self-described “grassroots movement” for HIV-positive people. Designed as an online-first support network, TIM’s central pillar is a closed Facebook group that provides a forum for HIV-positive people to talk about their condition, free from stigma, and to come to terms with their diagnosis with the support of other people living with HIV. The… [Read full story]
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