Philip Christopher Baldwin is a campaigner and HIV awareness activist who regularly supports charities including: Stonewall, The Albert Kennedy Trust and Terrence Higgins Trust. Today Philip writes about about the impact his Hep C diagnoses had on his life and his desire to change the Church from within, as a gay man of the Christian faith.
I unfastened a cufflink and rolled up the sleeve of my shirt. The trainee nurse struggled to find a vein, missing eight times. The room was bathed in a harsh yellow glow from the overhead lighting. A male nurse in his mid-thirties tentatively broke the news to me. He had kind brown eyes and stubble. I was told that I was co-infected with Hep C, as well as being HIV positive.
I was shocked and felt disorientated. My head spun and my throat tightened. I wanted to curl up and cower. I was desperate to dissolve into the warmth of the room. I left the hospital in a daze. I had a slice of lemon loaf cake and a hot chocolate in a nearby cafe. I ate slowly, gradually returning to normality. I prepared to return to the office. I didn’t tell my colleagues what had taken place. I projected a facade. I hid my pain in silence.
I am proud to be the gay rights and HIV awareness activist that I am today. I have faced a number of challenges, such as HIV, from which I’ve emerged a stronger person. I was 24 years old when, in January 2010, I learned that I was co-infected with HIV and Hep C. I had just started my career as a lawyer at an international law firm. In 2012 I told my work that I was HIV positive. They were supportive. It took me several years to come to terms with my HIV, the acceptance of my work colleagues an important part of this. As an activist I want every person living with HIV to know that HIV need not curtail their aspirations.
My Hep C diagnosis further stoked up my panic and anxiety. I was worried gay men would no longer find me sexually desirable. I didn’t want to be isolated from other gay men. It took me longer to open up about my Hep C.
A few months ago my HIV and Hep C specialist told me that I would be commencing the new Hep C treatment in the summer of this year. The new Hep C treatment has a shorter treatment time and a high success rate.
But there is a third component to my activism. In 2013, I started to re-evaluate the role of faith in my life. I have had an incredible journey with Christianity.
Previously I would have described myself as an atheist, or at best an agnostic. I am now a member of an amazing church in Waterloo called St John’s. It’s vibrant, inclusive and welcoming.
I want to help change the Church from within
I would like everyone to have a positive experience around faith. My Christianity empowers me. It has reinforced my identity as a gay man. As a consequence I have more acceptance around who I am. Jesus loves even my flaws. He was the most wonderful man to ever walk the planet, a freedom fighter who cared passionately for the poor and vulnerable. My Christianity adds an additional impetus to my activism. I am inspired by the congregation of which I am a member, by my priests and by Jesus.
I want to help change the Church from within. Justin Welby’s decision, following the meeting of 39 Anglican faith leaders in Canterbury last month, to censure the US Episcopal Church because of its stance on same-sex marriage upset me.
I am a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage. I would like to celebrate my love for another man with a marriage ceremony in church. My goal is to have a loving long term relationship and to worship Jesus together with my partner.
And I’m not the only one who believes in this cause. A recent poll was released showing that the majority of young Church of England, Anglican and Episcopalian Christians believe same-sex marriage is right. I would like to see same-sex marriage endorsed by the Church of England. I would also like to see the appointment of an openly gay man as a bishop.
I am prepared to fight for my faith, by defending my view that as LGBT members of the Church of England we are to be treated with the same respect as our fellow worshippers.
I am more comfortable in my identity at thirty than ever before. I am confident in who I am. I am determined to seize the opportunities that 2016 brings. HIV and Hep C have not held me back. I have flourished. Christianity nourishes me. I will continue to grow. I cherish my identity as a gay and HIV positive Christian. I will continue to fight for LGBT people, for those living with HIV, for faith and for a better society.
Words Philip Christopher Baldwin