BILLY Thomson drinks out of whichever cup is on the draining board in the family home these days and that’s the way he likes it. It means that his HIV is understood.

Thomson, a 62-year-old living well specialist with Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland, has been living with HIV for 11-and-a-half years and has seen first hand how attitudes have changed in that time.

He said: “All of a sudden I took not well and I lost four stone which took me down to kids’ sizes and I was buying tops out of Top Man which were extra, extra small.”

He recalls how he felt when he was told he had HIV. “When they call you in to talk to you you already think there’s something going on.

“It was like a two-minute wonder to be honest with you in that room and then I left to get my bus and deal with it in my head.

“At that point I got that cold, steely feeling through the centre of me. And then just a wee bit fudged in the head after that.

“There was no support offered, no organisation to get in touch with. No-one gave me that information at the time.”

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Harder still was when he addressed his diagnosis with his family.

“You only learn about things if either you’re living with it or you’re close to someone living with it.

“Twenty minutes after being diagnosed I was standing in my mother’s living room and my mum and my big sister then found out.

“Now my whole family are all aware of my status and they all know what’s right and what’s wrong. In the early days it was like ‘oh Billy, that’s your cup, that’s your plate, that’s your cutlery’. They know they don’t have to do any of that now.”

Thomson believes attitudes are better now towards HIV, particularly from the younger generation, but he recalls how different it was in the 1980s.

He added: “When I ran about Glasgow in the 80s and we heard about this ‘gay plague’ happening in America you began to look at folk and judge them from a distance, just by their looks. If some people were looking gaunt, you were making assumptions back then.

“And then all of a sudden people were just disappearing. And all of a sudden we were questioning who we’ve been with, what we’ve done. We lost one person in our group. That’s when we really did sit down and take stock.”

Thomson came close to death himself. He added: “I was a late diagnosis and I had to go into hospital and the doctor said to the family that the next 48 hours were crucial otherwise I might not be here. And they’re all standing around with the facemasks on and the suits on.”

These days Thomson is healthy and happy. He takes two pills a day and enjoys his work.

He said: “This is not a death sentence. You can live a normal life.”