Last Friday night’s episode of The Late Late Show saw one of ACT UP’s advocates Robbie Lawlor appear on the chat show to share his own experience with HIV in order to raise awareness and combat stigma. Lawlor appeared with his former partner Shaun Dunne ahead of the return of their play Rapids.
Lawlor, who co-founded Access to Medicines Ireland, spoke candidly to Ryan Tubridy about how he felt when he was diagnosed with HIV in 2012:
“I’ll never forget going back into that consultant’s room.
“I sat down and the consultant was looking at this computer for a few minutes, and then she turned to me. She said: ‘Robbie, last time you came back here, you had a HIV test.’ And I said: ‘Yeah, normal bloods.’ She said ‘Well, it came back positive.'”
Lawlor admitted that at the time, he had very little knowledge regarding the status of HIV in Ireland:
“I hadn’t a clue HIV even existed in Ireland. I didn’t understand how I was getting this diagnosis at all. I didn’t know anyone living with HIV.”
Lawlor told Tubridy about how he was told he needed further tests and treatment immediately:
“I didn’t know how I was getting this, and not only that, they told me my immune system was quite low, actually, and that I had to get biopsies done on growths on my tongue, that it could be oral cancer and that I had to get on medication straight away.”
— The Late Late Show (@RTELateLateShow) February 15, 2019
Lawlor told the Late Late Show host about how he was devastated that his status now meant that he could not apply for a residency visa in Australia:
“My dream that I had been working on for so long, that I had since I was 12, that was ripped away from me. So it was a very difficult time.”
Lawlor told Tubridy about how he was required to contact the people he had sex with as soon as possible:
“I was kept up at night, not because of my own HIV and diagnoses, but if I didn’t know anything, they don’t. I know HIV affected my immune system, so every minute that I don’t tell them, it could be affecting them. I decided to meet up with them face to face – Shaun being one of them – just to say ‘Go get checked’. That was an incredibly difficult time as that was in the first two weeks of diagnoses.”
The honesty with which Lawlor spoke about his status went down very well with many Late Late Viewers, with many sharing their reactions on Twitter:
— Martin Davoren (@MartinDavoren) February 15, 2019
— Lauren Larkin (@larkin_lauren) February 15, 2019
— ACT UP Dublin (@ActUpDublin) February 15, 2019
Surreal and amazing to see @Robbie_Lawlor and @SeanieLove on #LateLate talking about Rapids. A moving, insightful and warm show that talks about a rarely discussed topic and disclosure around it. It’s touring Ireland for the next few weeks. Dates below ???? pic.twitter.com/7C5xVXDohg
— Conor Behan (@platinumjones) February 15, 2019
.@Robbie_Lawlor and @SeanieLove “on their work to remove the stigma of #HIV in Ireland and how they’ve used their own experiences to create a new theatre project, Rapids” -Weekend TV guide: 14 of the best shows to watch https://t.co/JvcAafJYMQ #ACTUP #ACTUPDublin #RAPIDS
— Noel Donnellon (@NoelDonnellon) February 15, 2019
In light of the response, Lawlor tweeted that it was an “indicator of how far we have come as a country in regards to sexual health”. Lawlor added that there is “still a long way to go”, and that he hopes Ireland is “becoming a more educated and safer place to be open about our status”.
These headlines are a great indicator of how far we have come as a country in regards to sexual health. Still a long way to go but I hope all people living with HIV recognize that our country is becoming a more educated and safer place to be open about our status! #HIV #EndStigma pic.twitter.com/PosxjrHGEy
— Robbie Lawlor (@Robbie_Lawlor) February 17, 2019
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