Calgary man living with HIV speaks about realities of diagnosis: ‘I was told, you’re going to die’

WATCH: A Calgary charity is marking a significant milestone, thanks to a new campaign and scientific breakthroughs. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the AIDS Walk & Run. As Jill Croteau reports, those who survived the diagnosis are living proof it's not a death sentence.

Mark Randall never thought it would happen to him. But in his mid-20s, he discovered he was HIV positive.

“When I came out to my mother, she said two things. [The first was], ‘It’s going to be such a lonely life.’ The second thing she said to me was, ‘What about AIDS?'” Randall recently recalled.

“It was the 80s. I was told, ‘You’re going to die, get your affairs in order, we have no medication, there is nothing to offer you,'” Randall said.

“I was planning my funeral and saying my goodbyes.”

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Facing the darkness of that diagnosis was crippling, but he also had to navigate ignorance and fear.

READ MORE: Global concerns rise over possibility Canada backs out of AIDS fight funding

“Here I am, the epitome of exactly what society is saying about HIV: ‘It’s God’s curse on gay men and their promiscuous horrible lifestyle.’ Had I actually become the poster boy for that statement?” Randall said.

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But just over three decades later, he is living a full happy, healthy life. He spends his time raising awareness and funds for AIDS research. Every year he participates in the Calgary AIDS Walk & Run. He also works for HIV Community Link.

“Thirty years ago I was told, ‘You’re going to die,’ and 30 years later, I’m living this, who could have ever imagined?” Randall said.

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Leslie Hill, the executive director for HIV Community Link, said HIV is preventable and science should outweigh the stigma.

“Treatments are so effective,” Hill said. “If you’re on effective treatment, the virus is undetectable in your bloodstream and that means you won’t transmit to a partner.”

The 25th anniversary of the Calgary AIDS Walk & Run is taking place Sunday, Sept. 22, at Eau Claire Plaza, starting at 11 a.m.

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