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“I don’t have time to be sick!" Says busy mum-of-three Rebecca Matheson. And she’s not joking. With children ranging in age from 17 to three, the 45-year-old Melbourne mum runs an unenviable diary.
She works full time and spends most weekends behind the wheel of ‘mum’s taxi’ service, and if she’s not ferrying kids around to ballet, sport or social activities, they’re packing her house to its rafters. "I have a house full of teenagers every weekend," she laughs, "we are a very typical family."
Rebecca has been living with HIV for more than 20 years. She was diagnosed with the virus after a backpacking holiday to Africa in 1994. She has defied the odds, and proudly pushed the boundaries. She married, started a family, and has lived a healthy happy life, despite the dark cloud that hung over her initial diagnosis.
"I’m a mother, wife, I’m involved in my community, and I just get on with my life every day, HIV doesn’t define me at all. I’ve never had an AIDS-defining illness, when I came home from Africa, I thought I had malaria, I didn’t imagine it would be HIV, but I’ve maintained my health, I look after myself and do everything I can to manage the virus."
Disclosure, she says, is still one of the most challenging aspects of being HIV-positive. "I choose who I tell very carefully, I’m confident, I have a great support network around me but I’m well aware there are still huge misconceptions about HIV. I was lucky that my husband saw HIV as only a part of who I am." She says it’s important to speak out about the virus, because "we want people to know [with treatment] you can live well with HIV".
BY SUE SMETHURST
The Australian Women’s Weekly — Bauer Media. Image by Eamon Gallagher.