“I’ve got my life back” – an HIV sufferer praised a ife-changing’ support group in Birmingham. An HIV sufferer who had “nothing to get up for” has praised the “life-changing” impact of a Birmingham support group which has helped him get his life back – as figures show the number of people with the condition in the city has increased by more than 30 per cent in the last five years.
Known only as Andy, he was diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) four years ago and attends Positive West Midlands, a group partially funded by Ageing Better in Birmingham.
The 51-year-old is married with two children and contracted the disease through sexual encounters with men.
Speaking to raise awareness of the help available, he said: “Since joining the group, I now have something to get up for. It takes away the isolation. The group has opened doors for me and boosted my confidence. I found no support in my local area. Every minute of the 16 miles I travel to the group is worth it.
“The difference with me is that I’m married. The group helps to keep us together. My wife also needs support, she wanted to ask people what to expect. She has stood by me.”
HIV remains a public health concern despite major advances in treatment, awareness and reductions in diagnosis. In 2016 an estimated 1,968 people in Birmingham were thought to have the condition, compared with just 1,500 in 2011. Prevelance rates across the West Midlands region have also increased from 4,438 in 2011, to 6,012 in 2016, according to figures provided by Public Health England.
Ageing Better in Birmingham, which aims to drive down loneliness and isolation in people over 50, has now been officially launched across the city following a successful pilot scheme launched in 2015.
The project is funded by a £6million, six-year grant supported by the Big Lottery Fund using National Lottery funding – allowing support groups such as Positive West Midlands to thrive.