If like millions of others, you were gripped and moved by the Channel 4 drama, It's A Sin, about the AIDS crisis of the 1980s to mid-1990s, you'll know how brilliant Nathaniel J Hall was at playing the part of Donald Bassett, a young actor (who dates Ritchie Tozer, played by Olly Alexander).
Now, Nathaniel himself is speaking out about his own HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) diagnosis in a brilliantly written essay for The I, in which he shares that he contracted the virus the very first time he had sex at the age of 16. He also speaks eloquently about how it felt playing a young man with the same diagnosis but in an earlier time period, where the science and understanding wasn't as advanced as it is today.
Nathaniel explains that he was fortunate to be diagnosed in 2003 "in the era of medication" – today, people on effective antiretroviral treatment (ART) medicine, which reduces the detectable viral load in the body, are now able to have sex without passing the virus on to another person. They can also live a long and healthy life.
He also writes about how after It's A Sin aired and received such a brilliant response, he felt a level of guilt after being intimate with his partner. Nathaniel explains that it's difficult for him to think about the people who came decades before him who didn't have the same level of healthcare and support that he received: "I lie in his arms afterwards, grateful for scientific advancements, but devastated for those for whom science moved too slow."
Discussing the emotions he felt when his boyfriend told him he was proud of him, Nathaniel also shared that he has experienced an array of feelings – from pride to survivor's guilt. "A feeling swells in my chest. I think its pride, but it might be survivor’s guilt," he writes. "The heaviness of the weekend has reminded me that I’m one of the lucky ones."
While activists such as Nathaniel are doing excellent work in reducing stigma around HIV, and it's fantastic that there are brilliant medicines available to help those with the virus achieve an undetectable status, sadly there are still many parts of the world where access to the treatment is not possible or affordable.
To learn more about HIV, watch this helpful animated video from NAM aidsmap (created for World AIDS Day 2020) which explains exactly how Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U):
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