Jane, age 57 / Auckland, New Zealand


Sometimes, I allow myself to have a wallow day. But it doesn’t happen much now. It used to happen. I cried a lot in the first years. I find now that it’s very difficult to cry. I seem to have hardened quite a lot. And I guess it’s just about, you know, you see a lot and you do a lot, and a lot of it hurts, so you build up a barrier. And I guess that’s what I’ve done.

I just find that, actually, when I’m not feeling good, if I do something for other people, it helps to make me feel better. Maybe it’s a kind of denial or hiding, I don’t know, but, I just–  I don’t like to wallow, and I find that if you do things and get involved with things, it helps you to come to terms with it and you just get on with it and do sort of the best that you can with it.

Work is what I throw myself into now. I mean, my son’s left home and got married, and I have two grandchildren. My grandchildren now keep me going. So, it’s really looking outside.

I guess the only sort of negative side – but I don’t even know if it’s negative ‘cause I’m used to it now –  but you know, it’s twenty years since I left my ex-partner and went back to New Zealand, and I haven’t been in a relationship at all since then. You know, nothing, not even going out on a date. And initially, that was because I’d come back to die, so I didn’t see any point.

And then when I thought I wasn’t going to die, I thought then – well, then it was around disclosure. I had to tell somebody, and I didn’t think anybody would want to be with someone who had HIV. I was always a bit insecure anyway, so that kind of just… compounded insecurity. And I guess now, I kind of say I’m too old.

But the reality of it is… is the HIV. I feel I would always be – there would be an imbalance in a relationship. Unless I was with a positive person, but I have… I was going to say haven’t met anybody, but I have not put myself in a position to meet anybody. I work. I look after my grandchildren. And I’m with my son. And I’m at home. So there’s no place, really, to meet… And a lot of my work is with women and gay men (laughs). So, you know… I’m not open to meeting anybody, and I’ve kept that door shut very firmly.

And as a result, I don’t flirt. I don’t dance, ‘cause I kind of associate dancing to being a bit erotic and, you know, flirty. And I guess all of that’s kind of made me a little bit more serious. Not that I’m a somber, unhappy – I’m not unhappy. That’s not it at all, but I’m quite – much more serious, I think. I’m not so fun-loving as I used to be. But that could also be just aging in general, I don’t know.

But I think, yeah, if I think about the relationship thing, is definitely directly linked to HIV. And over the years – ‘cause initially, being on the AZT and those earlier drugs – I got lipodystrophy and lipoatrophy. And so, you know, my legs are really skinny and I’ve got this truncal obesity. And I did have – starting to sort of have the gaunt look from the AIDS look in your face, from the fat. But luckily in New Zealand they have a program where you could get some infill in your face. So, it’s all filled up now (laughs), so…

But I think just the whole, feeling uncomfortable about my body, I couldn’t even contemplate being in a physical relationship with anybody. ‘Cause my body is so – I find – ugly. I mean, I cover up, and I don’t think I’ve worn a dress in… fifteen years. I haven’t gone swimming in that long, and people say, “Oh, you know, there’s worse than that, and other people won’t look at you,” and all of that. And it’s not about what other people, it’s about what I feel. And I don’t feel comfortable getting into a swimsuit. And  as I get older, that gets worse, because, you know, there’s other changes that start to happen, so…

Yeah. I find, sometimes, it can be a little bit of a lonely place. But because I’ve been on my own for twenty years it’s sort of… I’ve got used to it, and I think I like it, and I don’t know that I could share my life with somebody anymore. But it is lonely sometimes. Actually, this morning is a perfect example. You know, it’s my birthday, and I wake up in a hotel room by myself in a foreign country, and it’s a little kind of loneliness there, you know, just for a minute. Then you get up and go and do some work.