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"I was stopped from seeing my nieces." What life is like for someone living with HIV. 

In the 1980s, the HIV and AIDS epidemic raged through the world.

With no known treatment available, thousands of people were killed worldwide – often just weeks or months after they were diagnosed, if they even managed to get a diagnosis.

Now, three decades on from the epidemic that rocked the world, more than half of the global population living with HIV are receiving antiretroviral treatment.

But while treatment options for HIV continue to improve and evolve each and every year, the fear, stigma and ignorance surrounding the virus hasn’t gone away.

Sarah* shares her journey with HIV on SBS Insight. Post continues below…

On last night’s episode of SBS Insight, a number of Australians living with HIV came forward to share their harrowing stories of dealing with prejudice and ostracism.

One woman, who chose to remain anonymous on the program, described how she was routinely shut out by her family after sharing her HIV diagnosis.

“My brother, he had a partner. As soon as she heard what I had, I had a plate, fork, knife, spoon, cup all outside with the cats,” she said.

“I would go to the toilet and they would bleach the toilet right away,” she continued. “They see it as dirty.”

“My brother-in-law stopped me from seeing my nieces. They believed that by kissing my nieces or hugging them that they would get it. Where that is not the case.”

The woman also said that the prejudice surrounding HIV has affected her mental health dramatically.

“I’m undetectable, I’m living a healthy life. But I would say that if I didn’t have my kids, I would have been buried because I wouldn’t have been putting up with this,” she said.

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“My kids have made me stronger than I am.”

hiv epidemic
Cath was shocked to learn that she had contracted HIV. Image: SBS.

Although HIV rates have dropped dramatically over the last decade, HIV is now on the rise within certain groups – including within heterosexual people and within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia.

"[I didn't think I'd get HIV] because I'm a heterosexual female," one woman, Cath, admitted on the program.

When Cath was first told that she had a blood borne virus after donating blood, she never imagined that she would be diagnosed with HIV.

But after being taken into a private room, her suspicions soon changed.

"I said 'I've got HIV haven't I?' and [the nurse] said yes," she said.

"I just thought, 'Oh my god, I'm going to die'," she continued.

"I just thought 'I haven't got around to having children yet. Who is going to want me now?'"

You can watch the entire episode of SBS Insight here.

For more on this topic:

'We need to talk about the fear that every gay man of this generation still carries.'

The 24 ways HIV affects the human body.

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