On December 19th Judge Mark Horner of the Belfast High Court exposed the fact that I was HIV+ in open court - much to the surprise of everyone present.
My legal team had asked Judge Horner NOT to specifically mention that aspect of my health but to simply mention that I was suffering from 4 medical conditions that he had received consultants reports about.
Judge Horner took the view that in order to justify his decisions in my case - and to protect himself from the accusation of being too lenient on me that he had to mention my HIV status.
I disagreed with Judge Horner's position - as I suppose you might expect.
Many other people were very angry with the judge as my HIV was completely unconnected to why I was in court.
Some journalists were delighted that it was mentioned. For instance it gave the Roman Catholic, SDLP rag THE IRISH NEWS a new stick to beat me with. THE IRISH NEWS have never liked me and like me even less because I reported them some time ago to the Press Complaints Commission.
Since December 19th - 13 days ago - THE IRISH NEWS have had me on their pages 3 times.
I was diagnosed with HIV during a routine medical check 12 years ago - on December 5th 2001 to be exact.
Of course when I got my diagnosis I was shocked and worried.
But since then everything has settled down and it has become one of a number of health conditions that I live with.
Everyone eventually gets health problems. I am 61. Its not unusual at 61 to have some health issues.
Thanks to the wonderful staff at The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast my HIV is under perfect control. HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be. It is now a Chronic condition and with one tablet a day I will have a very normal life and a very normal life expectancy. A close relative of mine has terminal cancer. She told me she would much prefer to have HIV than cancer.
HIV is a very common illness now. There are over 40 million people world wide living with it.
In Ireland there are thousands living with HIV.
But the big issue is that 25% of people who have HIV do not KNOW THEY HAVE IT !!!!
This is very dangerous because it means they are not on the necessary medication and over a number of years the HIV destroys their immune system and if a few years down the road they get a serious illness like pneumonia and their immune system is destroyed or partially destroyed they will be very ill and could even die.
Since Judge Horner made my HIV status public I have had a number of people with HIV get in touch with me - including 2 Irish priests.
This is a very good thing and is one of the very good things that have come out of Judge Horner's "outing" of me.
I have also had one priest get in touch who has Klinefelters Syndrome - a chromosomal irregularity.
There is no need to be afraid to talk about HIV and other such issues any more. We need to take the fear and stigma out of it all.
Nor is HIV a gay disease. There are men, women and children with it. Heterosexuals as well as homosexuals can have it. It is also common among drug users who exchange needles.
I do not regard Judge Horner's outing of me as a disaster. In fact it has increased and will increase my ministry. For that I thank the Lord.
Most of all I would beseech everyone out there to look after their health and in this day and age it is very good for everybody to have a sexual health screening at least once a year.
Bishop Pat Buckley