Yang Chen tells us about his experience of discovering his HIV status and how Colorful Sky, an outreach group for men who have sex with men in Yunnan, China, has helped him. Colorful Sky is funded by USAID as part of its ‘Rapid and Effective Action Combating HIV/AIDS (REACH)-Asia’ programme and is supported by Alliance China.
June 1, 2009 had special significance for me. I went to a hospital, where a gay friend of mine took me to take an HIV test. I was greatly surprised when the test came back positive. The result showed that my CD4 count was only 339, and the doctor said that it was time that I started antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Meanwhile I was a second-year postgraduate student at a university in Yunnan. I was working on my graduation thesis on the one hand and had to cope with the great shock on the other. I was at a loss what to do. I lived under great pressure and I could not tell anyone about my painful experience. I felt like my life was pointless.
Luckily, I had a female friend who knew that I was gay, so I told her about my HIV status. Talking to her made things seem better. A few weeks passed before I learned about the Colorful Sky group on the message board of a Yunnan gay website. I decided to give it a try and joined the group. The group had more than 100 members. I got to know about some facts about ART and made friends with some people who were in the same situation as me. Fearing exposure of my privacy, I didn’t have the courage to meet with other group members in person.