news

The SMS telling her she had HIV said "I hope you remember me forever".

Abby Landy. (Screenshot: Transmission: The Journey from AIDS to HIV)

When the guy Abby Landy had been casually dating became sexually aggressive — and pressured her into sex without a condom — Abby knew it was time to break it off.

The Sydney woman, now 26, told Cosmopolitan that sent him a text declining to meet him for lunch, and thought she’d never have to pay the guy a second thought.

But the text message he sent in response — “‘I hope you at least remember me forever” — ominously hinted at what was to come.

Soon afterwards, Abby broke out in a rash of cold sores — an odd enough development in itself, given that she had never had a single cold sore previously, as she writes for news.com.au.

That symptom was followed by aches and pains, nausea and a horrible rash that began to spread over her body.

Ultimately, a test at her GP’s confirmed Abby’s worst suspicions: she had contracted HIV.

“It was the worst possible news I could possibly receive. My first response was, ‘Look, I don’t want to live with this’,” Abby told news.com.au. “I was really lucky that I had lots of family support. They were able to cushion me through that initial period of shock.”

But when Abby went to visit a specialist, she was surprised to learn the preconceptions she’d harboured about living with HIV weren’t reflected in reality.

“I saw a specialist and he laid down the facts. I said, ‘When am I dying? When does this mean?’ I had no idea of what it meant to have HIV in 2012. I assumed it was game over,” Abby told news.com.au.

Abby is now an advocate. (Photo: Facebook)

“He said, ‘Look, it’s a really manageable chronic illness. You take a couple of pills a day. People live next to normal lives’.”

She also now believes that of all the people to be living with HIV, she is “one of the luckiest.”

‘I’m young and educated and have good access to healthcare,’ Ms Landy told the Daily Mail.

Now, the virus has no other affect on Abby’s physical health apart from the need to take those pills, the Daily Mail reports.

ADVERTISEMENT

In fact, she believes that for some living with the illness, the most damaging part of HIV is the stigma surrounding it.

“HIV is unlike any illness in that it has this hideous stigma attached to it. You don’t see that with anything else,” she tells news.com.au. “The treatment is manageable, but the stigma is huge.”

Following her diagnosis, Abby took a year off studying law to work and train to become an advocate, Cosmopolitan reports. Now she shares her story at support groups, schools and public events.

Her message is clear, and it’s one that needs to be heard by all Australians: we need to start talking about HIV and how it’s spread.

“I know so many girlfriends who’ve had unprotected sex because they feel it’s awkward to bring up a condom in the heat of the moment,” she told Cosmopolitan.“(B)ut at the end of the day it’s you who has to live with the consequences.”

“I think a lot of people think that HIV is not something that can affect them,” she added, writing for news.com.au. “There is a lot of ignorance and people are reckless. No one is in regular patterns of getting checked.”

As for the man who gave her the virus, Cosmopolitan reports the NSW health department contacted him after Abby’s diagnosis, but he ignored their suggestion to get tested.

While infecting someone with HIV on purpose is illegal, for now Abbey’s not planning on taking the guy to court to prove the matter.

“The only way I would ever pursue [legal action] is if another woman had been affected by the same man,” she said. “If there were other people wanting to prosecute this guy and they needed my help I would fight it.”

Transmission: The Journey from AIDS to HIV premieres in cinemas on Wednesday November 19. Tickets can be purchased hereThe film, which breaks down common misconceptions such as the idea that the virus only affects gay men, is being shown in the lead-in to the 20th International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2014.

Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. You click, we help. Shooting star illustration.

Mamamia is funding 100 girls in school, every day.

So just by spending time with Mamamia, you’re helping educate girls, which is the best tool to lift them out of poverty.

Thanks for helping!

Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. Girl with pigtails sitting at desk writing in notebook. Row of four books.
Three hands holding books
00:00 / ???