I was newly married and nine weeks' pregnant, then the doctors told me... ... trends now
When Victoria Roscow gave birth to a healthy son, she and her husband were overjoyed.
It's easy to see why. Little Harrison is a delight and now a smiley 19-month-old, toddling around the family's well-kept three-bedroom home in Bolton, Lancashire. He likes 'helping' in the kitchen and no doubt enjoys the undivided attention of his besotted parents.
On the face of it, they are just like any other happy family. But when Victoria, now 29, was nine weeks pregnant, a blood test carried out as part of routine pre-natal care led to a shattering and utterly unexpected discovery. She was HIV positive.
Astonishingly, her husband Brad, 30, remains negative. And their baby boy is also negative, thanks to antiretroviral drugs Victoria took during her pregnancy. For Victoria, a graduate who is now a digital marketing executive, her life changed in a heartbeat.
'The first thought I had was: 'I'm going to die',' she said. 'I felt sure it was a death sentence. That I would either have to abort the pregnancy or that Harrison would be born HIV positive as well. I thought it was just a dead end for both of us. I remember sobbing and sobbing.'
When Victoria Roscow gave birth to a healthy son, she and her husband were overjoyed
On the face of it, they are just like any other happy family. But when Victoria, now 29, was nine weeks pregnant, a blood test carried out as part of routine pre-natal care led to a shattering and utterly unexpected discovery. She was HIV positive
Today, as she sits in the family's sitting room where her two framed degree certificates hang on the wall, the enormity of it all is still hard to fathom.
'We had just had the first scan of the pregnancy,' she said. 'We were having a baby and we were so excited. Everything looked good. But then I was asked to wait behind. A consultant pulled me aside into a separate room. She sat me down and said that they had identified my platelets were very low and the reason was that I have HIV.
'They asked if they could tell my husband and I said, 'Yes, bring him in immediately. Tell him exactly what you've just told me.' '
'The first thing he did was grab my hand and said, 'I love you. We're in this together.' But we were both completely shocked.
'We were having these dramatic thoughts of 'Has he got it? Did he give it to me? Did I give it to him? Where has it come from?''
Today, her perfect complexion, bright eyes and an abundance of immaculately-groomed auburn hair show no signs of a virus which, if left untreated, would progress to full-blown Aids and prove to be, in her words, '100 per cent fatal'.
Struggling to come to terms with news that was at first devastating, Victoria started making short videos where she talked about her feelings and posted them on the video-sharing site TikTok.
What once was a personal enterprise has now been viewed by millions of people online.
'It went viral,' she said, the irony of the word not lost on her.
'I didn't know any other women with HIV when I started it, so I was pleased to debunk some of the stereotypes around what is ultimately a manageable health condition.'
In scenes of cosy domesticity, Victoria broadcasts details of her condition to a core of 30,000 loyal followers. She is often seen talking in front of an antique Welsh dresser, which features shelves of leather-bound classic novels.
Astonishingly, her husband Brad (pictured), 30, remains negative. And their baby boy is also negative, thanks to antiretroviral drugs Victoria took during her pregnancy
Signs of a busy family life — the odd Waitrose bag or child's bottle — can be seen in the background. Sometimes, she is putting on her mascara as she talks. Rather than a monologue, she also uses the videos to give candid answers to the many questions she receives online.
Is the baby definitely her husband's? Yes.
Is there a risk of passing the virus to her husband or others? No, thanks to the three antiretroviral tablets she takes each morning.
But there is one question which has attracted more than a million views on Victoria's TikTok: how did a middle-class, university-educated woman (including a masters degree in English literature from Newcastle University), contract HIV in the first place?
She said: 'This is the question that has attracted the most views. And the answer is that when I was diagnosed, they said it looked like I contracted HIV within the past few years, based on the viral load [the amount of virus in the blood], which was fortunately so low a doctor memorably said it was 'peanuts'. It meant I contracted it in a relationship before I met my husband, because he was fortunately negative. It's harder for men to contract it from women than the other way round.
'They asked me if I had had any weird viral symptoms in that time. I said, actually, yes, I was very ill with a mysterious pneumonia or mumps-like illness and I had these really strange rashes over my arms and my torso. I did go to the GP who said it seemed like mumps, the flu and an allergic reaction at the same time. They didn't really join the dots.'
The precision of her diagnosis and the very specific time-frame meant she knew who had infected her. 'I knew who it was,' she said. 'I had one partner in the specified time period.
'It was a person I was dating. A regular relationship and I had unprotected sex at some point during that time. Nothing out of the ordinary and I have no clue how he got it.
'People think that you must have done something weird or dirty or seedy or sordid to get it. But that's not it.'
Far from it. Victoria had no cause to suspect that there was a particular risk and is confident that her ex had no idea that he had HIV and was therefore putting her in danger.
In fact, knowingly infecting someone through 'reckless transmission' is illegal.
It is clearly a painful part of her story but hard for her to feel anger towards her ex for passing on a virus that he didn't know he had.
Nor is her behaviour any different from any number of women in fledgling relationships who rely solely on the Pill without taking further precautions against sexually transmitted diseases.
In 2021, the last year for which we have figures, 87,000 people were 'accessing care' for HIV in the UK, with almost exactly equal numbers of those who had acquired it via sex between men and heterosexual sex. Almost a third of those infected, however, are women.
Like any young couple, they took pride in building a life together, buying a house in a picturesque market town near Bolton and spending weekends scouring antique markets to furnish their home. Then, a planned pregnancy only seemed to add to their joy
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