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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>'I thought only people in Africa got HIV'
Sunday, 16 March 2014 00:00

'I thought only people in Africa got HIV'

Rachel Dilley Rachel Dilley

'I thought only people in Africa got HIV,' says mother-of-three who contracted the condition after summer romance


Rachel Dilley, 48, says she had no idea she was at risk of the condition

This is because she had never known a white person to have HIV

When embarking on new relationship she didn't use protection

Says she was 'too old' to be at risk of pregnancy and hadn't considered HIV

A few months later suffered symptoms similar to a 'severe bout of flu'

Was eventually advised to have an HIV test - which came back positive

Unwell: Ms Dilley said that a few months after finishing a relationship, she felt like she had 'a severe bout of the flu' - and was eventually urged to take an HIV test


When quizzed by Philip Scofield about how sex education campaigns and messages had passed her by, she admitted they simply had.

Within a few months, the relationship between Ms Dilley and Simon was over - and shortly afterwards she began to feel unwell.

'I had swollen glands, a sore throat, a temperature and couldn't eat properly,' she recalled.

'It was like a really severe bout of the flu.'

After tests were inconclusive, it was suggested - to her surprise - she should take an HIV test.

'I thought "why?",' she explained.


'I just didn't know anything about it - I just thought you got it in Africa. I didn't know a white person had ever got it.'

Her comments were described by Philip as 'extremely naive'.

She went on to explain that a week after taking the test, she received the devastating news that she was, indeed, HIV positive.

'I felt like I was walking into a black hole - and my first words were "am I going to die"?

'It sounds stupid now - as now I know that HIV is not a death sentence.

'My children, who were teenagers at the time, took the news well - as did my mother when she was alive.'


But she added not everyone has been fine about her diagnosis. 'A friend's daughter didn't want me near her baby. It did upset me at the time, but it just shows that, like me, she wasn't educated on it either.'

Today, Ms Dilley takes two drugs in the morning and one in the evening and tries to keep her immune system strong.

She also admitted she 'doesn't have much to do with men' - and said people of all ages need to be more aware of the risks of HIV.

'I will not be defined by it [my illness] - people love me for who I am,' she added.



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