By Rebecca Drew
AFTER having unprotected sex ONCE on holiday, this woman thought her life was over and she would never be loved or have children after being diagnosed with HIV – but now she has a family and wants to break the stigma surrounding the virus.
Self-employed Megan Moulton (36) from Sabattus, Maine, USA, went on holiday to Jamaica with her friends in September 2007.
After an evening of relaxing and a few drinks, Megan got caught up in the moment and ended up having unprotected sex with a man she had met. Out of her group of friends Megan was not normally one to sleep around but she didn’t think any more of her encounter and enjoyed the rest of her trip.
A week after coming home, Megan started to feel unwell and thinking she had picked something up from the water whilst away, she went to the hospital. Over the course of a week Megan went to and from the hospital five times. Eventually doctors decided to do a spinal tap to test for HIV as the virus takes a few months to show in the blood.
On October 9, 2007, Megan was shocked to hear that she had tested positive for HIV and thought that her life was over and she’d never be able to have a family or find love despite her doctor telling her that she would be able to live a long and healthy life thanks to medication.
When Megan met her husband, Mark (35) a year after her diagnosis, she told him her HIV status on their first date and was surprised when he called back the next day thinking that she had scared him off. Mark has a daughter, Kadence (12) from a previous relationship and when the couple decided to try for a baby, Megan had to change her medication to Truvada and Isentress and they had to use the turkey baster method to conceive their daughter, Ava (7) who is HIV negative, as they couldn’t have unprotected sex.
It took six weeks for Megan to come to terms with her diagnosis and since then she has made it her mission to be open about her HIV to break the stigma that sill surrounds it after discovering that people would assume that those living with it were drug addicts.
“I went on vacation to Jamaica with some close friends and I ended up getting a little tipsy and had a one night stand while there. This was not something that was normal for me, I was never the first to sleep around but in the moment I made one bad decision to have unprotected sex,” said Megan.
“After getting home from the trip, about a week later I found myself very sick and in and out of the hospital. It took them about a week to realise to do a spinal tap to test for it because it doesn’t show up in your blood for months.
“Then it happened, those three big letters came out of my doctor’s mouth and I instantly thought my life was over. I didn’t know much about the disease. I feel like all through school they were teaching us to not get pregnant instead of focusing on these big things that are life threatening.
“When I was really sick, the thought of HIV never once crossed my mind. I figured maybe it was something in the water or who really knows but getting HIV was never on my radar.
“Luckily my mum came with me to that doctor’s appointment because I really just blanked out after my doctor told me it came back positive. Once I came back to earth a bit I remember wondering if I would ever be able to have a baby and that was one of the first things he assured me of.
“So after the shock passed and the fog lifted, which took about six weeks I decided it was time to get back to my life. I made the choice pretty early on to be open about this so that I could educate people about it.
“Truthfully I wasn’t sure I would ever find someone to love me after being diagnosed but I told myself if I found someone I would tell them on our first date so they knew and that’s exactly what happened with my husband, just a year after being diagnosed I met him.
“So I met my husband while bartending. We chatted quite a few times at work and then went out on a date and I told him later that night. He didn’t say too much but didn’t seem scared or turned off either.
“I personally thought for sure I would never hear from him again but to my surprise he called the next day.
“My husband has a daughter from his previous marriage and when we decided to start trying. I had to go to my doctors, change my medication, wait about a year for my body to adjust to that medication because it was making my liver inflamed, and then we used what we call ‘the turkey baster method’ because we were not able to have unprotected sex.
“It only took us about four months of trying and our daughter is HIV negative. My miracle baby is my entire world and I feel incredibly blessed to have my family”
Megan now takes Biktarvy once daily and has an undetectable viral load which means she can’t pass the virus on to anyone else and her husband Mark is HIV negative. She has blood tests every five months to monitor her.
Now Megan wants to show that HIV can happen to anyone but they can still live a normal and healthy life with it, she hopes that by sharing her story she’ll be able to teach others not to make the same one mistake she did.
She shares her life with HIV on Instagram and is inundated with messages of support from people who have either recently been diagnosed or have been living with HIV for a long time and have felt too scared to speak out.
“There is such a stigma around people living with HIV. People think you should look a certain way, people think you have to have done drugs to get it and I just want to show people that it can seriously happen to anyone and it only takes one mistake,” said Megan.
“Oh gosh, I have been overwhelmed with messages I have been getting from people that are newly diagnosed or have been living with it for a while but are too scared to talk about it. I hope that I am able to show them that they do not have to feel ashamed by this and the more people that speak out about it, the more likely we can stop the spread.
“I truly just want people to know that this is not a death sentence. When I heard those words come out of my doctor’s mouth I truly thought my life was over. I didn’t exactly think I would die but I thought, ‘how could I live a normal life?’ But you can, you just have to make the choice to not let this illness run your life.
“My goal is to show people that you can live a long healthy life with this disease, but to also teach them that they don’t have to, and teach them to not make these mistakes I did.”