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The Claude Nicole sexual health clinic at Brighton’s Royal Sussex County hospital delivered the news: He was HIV-positive.“I was mortified,” he said, looking away suddenly, scanning the half-empty restaurant. A lot of emotions – guilt, upset, [feeling] that I should have known better.”The illness he had suffered was a set of flu-like symptoms that typically occur two or three weeks after HIV is transmitted during a process called seroconversion, where the virus replicates and floods the immune system – when it takes hold.For most people, the diagnosis means far more than a medical condition, but for Oliver, the resonances of it echoed right back through his life.“My parents died of AIDS,” he said. My mum caught it from him.” Determined to avoid contracting the same virus that eventually killed them, Oliver had scrupulously ensured he always used a condom – until the day he met Rowe.“I spent all my fucking life looking after myself,” he said, adding a question he knew the answer to: “How?He knows exactly where I live.”Oliver spent the night at a friend’s house, terrified that Rowe would come for him. Oliver called his phone provider and asked if he could change his number. Confused and frightened, Oliver went online for answers.But the ramifications of doing this, professionally, were too difficult, so Oliver decided to wait another couple of days. Two weeks later, Oliver returned to Grindr, with a new picture on his profile, and having blocked Rowe. “He must have got a new device of some sort,” said Oliver, “and was like, ‘Oh it’s you again…want more cum in you? “You start self-diagnosing and it just becomes really traumatic,” he said.Other people have previously been found guilty of recklessly transmitting the virus. He infected five men and attempted to infect another five. And so, he gave Rowe his address and phone number, in the preamble to arranging to meet.
You know I know where you live.’”But it was what Rowe said next that changed everything.“He was like, ‘Haha I hope you enjoyed my cum in you. When Oliver eventually answered he asked Rowe why he said he had ripped the condom.” The first person he had sex with after his breakup was Rowe.But it was a week after the diagnosis, when he returned to the clinic, that a consultant asked to see him after his scheduled appointment.“I just wanted to meet somebody and have a good time,” he said.He also said what would later be echoed in court by other victims who also found their boundaries being pushed or ignored: Rowe was – is – very good looking.