Annie – 2003
“How can I tell him?” “He needs to know.” “He needs to get tested.” The same script ran in her head, over and over. “What can I possibly say? He is going to hate me. He should hate me.”
It took almost a week after hearing the diagnosis for Annie to work up the courage to let out the truth. She opted for a public place; George Square at eleven in the morning. She wasn’t sure what to expect or how he might react. Sitting on the pedestal of the Walter Scott statue, with pigeons milling and cooing, she whispered. “I have tested positive for HIV.” With a shudder she continued “ I am so sorry. So very, very sorry … Stephen.”
But he smiled and nodded and said “I know, I have been positive for almost two years.” The bells started ringing at St Mungo to herald the top of the hour, the ringing became louder, and the chiming was inside Annie’s head. Her nose started bleeding and bile rose into her mouth. Just before she sunk to her knees, he said “you are the fifteenth person I have passed this plague on to.”
Apparently, Stephen called 999 before he walked away or that is what Annie assumes because he wasn’t there when she woke up with a paramedic shaking her and saying “are you okay ma’am?” She never saw him again.
“Ma’am, what the frig?” was her first thought, as the emergency worker tried to put a mask over her mouth – then confusion, denial, terror and anger. Thirty minutes later, with the absurdity and tragedy sinking in, she was released on the spot by emergency services and she headed for Babbity Bowster on Blackfriars to get drunk.
Monday morning, after two days of drinking and stupor, questions started forming first out of confusion, then denial, then anger, then revenge and again confusion.
“How is this possible? He said he loved me? Who is this friggin bastard? Why would he do this? Why me? Why?”
On Wednesday, she laughed “The irony that I snorted, smoked and shot and whored with hundreds and he infected me.” “I hadn’t been tested and didn’t consider telling him that I was a slut.” “What does that say about me?”
Annie didn’t reach out to Stephen. She hated him but stopped blaming him entirely. She recognized her responsibility in all of this. She hated him but she also hated herself.
Before his arrest, Stephen texted her and all the alleged victims: “Turning myself into the law, my life is over. Take care. Always love you.” the Glasgow Evening Times said in a front page article in late April.
Police arrested Stephen Ames, 41, last week after he turned himself in — and admitted he had unprotected sex with “dozens” of partners with the intention of killing them by infecting them with the virus. Only two possible victims have yet been identified.
“I don’t want to be identified.” She said out loud over a coffee and paper in the shop near her new west end flat. “I am not a victim.” Annie knew she could beat this, she had overcome tragedy many times.
By early May, Annie was back seeing Dr. Siobhán McTavish, the psychiatrist that she went to when Andrew left her almost 20 years ago. She was a bit surprised her office was still on Howard Street near St Enoch Shopping Centre because her practice had grown and received significant publicity when she was the expert witness, for the prosecution, in a high-profile domestic violence case and subsequent divorce. Still Siobhán saw her within two days of Annie’s call and connected her with and AIDS support group that same day.
Annie would learn everything she needed to know from research, professionals and others who were living with the disease. For her part, she had already acknowledged her part in the situation, without absolving Stephen of his part. She had accepted that changing the past wasn’t possible so she was choosing to move forward and live the best life possible. An abundant life was still hers to create and every day became the perfect combination of challenge and opportunity. “This too will change my life forever, but I get to choose if it is for the better or worse. I choose better.” was the statement she made to Dr. McTavish and the first meeting of Kernow Positive Support. Some long term members of the network were offended by her brashness and simplicity but Siobhán remembered how Annie’s tenacity and optimism helped her overcome the physical and mental scars in 1983.