Steve Cummins, 35, is an NHS worker who has set himself a new challenge this year to mark his 16th year living as a HIV+ man and to raise money for LGBTQ+ organisation Terrence Higgins Trust (THT).
Diagnosed at age 19 with HIV back in 2006, Steve was not sure what was in store for him in the future, he had hoped to be a nurse but now outdated rules surrounding job HIV+ people could do limited his options.
Steve, from South East London, told MyLondon: “After my appointment I walked back out into a world which I felt would fail me completely, in a second everything looked different and significantly more scary for me as a 19-year-old.”
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When he reached his tenth year of living with HIV he decided that he wanted to do something to recognise the support he’d received
(Image: Steve Cummins)
He got in touch with THT immediately after his diagnosis and they responded with support networks, counselling suggestions and education on treatment and living with HIV.
Steve said: “They were such a friendly voice in the storm I was going through, I knew if ever I got stuck I could reach out to them.
“I was facing, at that point, what I thought was my mortality but they helped me realise my diagnosis was not the end.”
The diagnosis massively affected Steve as he believed ‘nothing exciting’ would happen in his life again.
He said: “For quite a while I struggled, it was more how I became HIV positive and the circumstances in which it happened, and I spent a long time thinking nothing exciting would happen again.
“I spent seven years in that mindset until I believed that it just was not true.”
When he reached his tenth year of living with HIV he decided that he wanted to do something to recognise the support he’d received and give back to those who had helped him.
This year Steve has decided to take on all three of THT’s 10K Ribbon walks
(Image: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire)
In 2016 Steve travelled to St Lucia in South Africa to volunteer on a medical outreach and awareness project working with the Zulu community there.
He said: “It was such a freeing experience, disclosing to them that I had lived with HIV for 10 years at that point was very important to me and from then I decided I would continue to set myself challenges to give back.
“I learnt that becoming HIV+ does not necessarily mean you have to slow down at all.”
This year Steve has decided to take on all three of THT’s 10K Ribbon walks taking place in London, Glasgow and Brighton in April and his fundraiser has already smashed his original target.
Steve said: “I thought to myself, if I’m going to talk the talk about supporting people with HIV then I better walk the walk too.”
Steve is open and vocal about his HIV status and when asked what he would say to his scared 19-year-old self, he said: “I would say, take your time it gets better this is not the end.
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“If anything, becoming HIV+ helped me work out what I wanted out of my life and where I wanted to go and it has driven me forward to ask for the things I want and pushed me forward into a place where I can accept myself, which has been really valuable.
“There is nothing about HIV that should ever be seen as shameful. I’m not just living with HIV, I am thriving.”
To learn more about THT’s 10K Ribbon walks in April and how to get involved you can find out more here.
To support Steve in his fundraiser for his three walk challenge, you can find more out here.
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