Rape victim John Percy has survived HIV for 30 years
HE was told he had only three years to live, but John Percy has survived HIV for more than 32 years.
The 52-year-old from Cheltenham has spent three decades battling the deadly infection, which has plagued him since he was diagnosed in 1981.
One of Britain's longest surviving HIV patients, he has now united with charities in Gloucestershire to help them work with fellow sufferers.
Mr Percy said he contracted the virus after he was raped by three men while visiting his parents in Glasgow.
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Then 18, he was attacked by the men in a park in the middle of the night on the way back from taking care of his parents, who had terminal cancer. The men were never found.
Sadly, his parents died weeks later.
After the assault, when John's health started to deteriorate, doctors initially diagnosed him with a tropical blood disease.
Back then HIV, was largely unkown.
Mr Percy, who has waived his right to anonymity as a victim of a sexual offence, said: "Nobody knew what it was, and nobody knew how to deal with it.
"When I was finally told it was HIV, the doctors told me I also had Hepatitis B and chlamydia from the attack.
"I couldn't believe it, I didn't understand it. I thought I could just go on, but I was more worried about my parents instead.
"It became a huge part of my life and affected my family. I was told I had only three years, but after that was up, I just kept going."
The former pet care manager was disowned by his family after they found out he had the disease and was openly gay.
News about HIV became clearer in the 1990s and by then rumours had started spreading about the incurable condition, which eats away at your immune system.
Mr Percy will today start a session at County Community Projects (CCP) to educate their staff and volunteers, and debunk the myths behind HIV.
"There was and still is a huge stigma around it," he said.
"Some people believed you just have to touch the person to get HIV. That is not true at all. The fact is that not many people know much about how to manage or work with people who have HIV. I have met many people who are HIV positive and they are all great and very friendly. They are normal people."