2009 marks the thirteenth anniversary of The Eddie Surman Trust, which I set up following the death of my partner Eddie. He took his own life on the eve of his 21st birthday.
We had an amazingly close relationship and I believed that I knew all of his fears and worries but I was wrong. We had a honest relationship but the one thing that Eddie could not talk about was his fear of becoming ill because he was HIV positive.
Back then I had been positive for 9 years and I was not on medication but Eddie had been put straight onto medication after being diagnosed. In his mind medication equalled illness and he thought it would not be long before he fell ill.
In a letter he left behind he told me that he had never been so happy in his life, had never felt so loved and that he did not want me or his family see him become ill. He felt secure enough to take his own life because he did not think that his life would get any better.
After his death I wondered where other young people in a similar situation would turn to. There were plenty of agencies and helplines but none seemed aimed at younger people and none of them seemed equipped to deal with issues around suicide. It was almost a taboo subject but it soon became clear to me that die was one of many young men who feel that there is nothing left but for them to end their lives.
Positiveline was born after merging with the Body Positiveline helpline and is now one of the largest helplines in the country and is still a freephone number that covers the UK. All of our volunteers are themselves HIV positive as I feel this is essential if you are to help other positive people. The helpline is open every day of the year, including Easter, bank holidays, Christmas and New Year when many others close down.
I have never claimed that I can stop someone from taking their life but I do explain that there must be another option to deal with their problems. I have spent countless hours with hundreds of guys over the years trying to let them know that life is worth living. I do not think suicide is a selfish action. All people need is someone to talk to, someone who listens to their worries and fears, and someone to give them a cuddle.
Positiveline has saved many lives over the years and that was the aim of the trust. I am also able to tell someone who is feeling suicidal, from my own experiences, that your loved ones will never be the same again.
Positiveline helps and supports people who are suicidal, depressed, confused about treatments, scared about getting a test, newly diagnosed or worried about how to tell partners, friends or family. I think the fact that I have been positive for over 20 years reassures callers that HIV is not the death sentence it once was.
There will always be someone to talk to you, listen to you, giving you as much time as you need and most important of all, someone to give you that cuddle.
Resources and further information
Open Monday – Friday
11am – 10pm
4pm – 10pm