When 20-year-old Marlon Van Der Mark was diagnosed with HIV his entire world collapsed around him.

He was plunged into a morass of depression, fear and hatred.

That was three years ago. Now, encouraged by the new TV series It’s A Sin, the young man from Swindon is hoping to fight the stigma surrounding HIV.

Marlon decided to open up to the Adver about his experience after watching the Channel 4 show in a bid to help other people living with the virus.

It tells the story of a group of friends living in London through the Aids crisis in the 1980s and its impact on the LGBTQ+ community.

He said: “It’s A Sin taught me things I never knew. As much as I knew about HIV from what I’ve been told by doctors or what I studied myself, I never looked at the 80s. So, watching the programme grounded me.

“I went through quite a lot of patches where I’d refuse medication and hide myself away because I would rather have the virus fight me than me fighting it.

“I went through that selfish stage, but once I watched It’s A Sin, I realised I have to be thankful because now I have medication and now, we can survive and live a normal and healthy life. Back then people had no choice but to die.”

The diagnosis 

Three years ago, Marlon, who lived in Walcot before moving to Cardiff, was in a relationship with someone who was living with HIV. 

He said: “At the time, I knew I had sex with someone who was HIV positive, but all the protections were there, all the protections that you would know or think of were there. But I was so young and naive that I didn’t know much about the virus itself.”

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HIV is passed from person to person through body fluids such as semen or blood. Marlon does not know exactly how he got it, but he said his journey with HIV started with ear pain.

“I was becoming really poorly. I tried different doctors and had different emergency appointments, but they couldn’t figure out what it was,”he said.

“They kept sending me away saying it was an ear infection or tonsillitis.

“As time went on, I started to become more poorly and there was this cut on my back, kind of like a blister, and that got worse and from there I went straight downhill.

“I went to the hospital. They did all the tests and then that’s when they found out I was HIV positive. My whole world collapsed around me. It was a big thing for me, I was very shocked.”

Marlon had no friends or family members around him when he was diagnosed in Cardiff.

“I was on my own, my family lived in Swindon,” he said. “I couldn’t say it because the moment I said it, I believed it. And the moment I believed it, it becomes reality and that’s what I wanted to deny for so long.”

“So, I actually dealt with it on my own. So, the whole time I was in hospital I kind of buried myself. If they asked how I was, I was like ‘I’m OK, I’m fine’ but really it was like I was eaten inside, I was dying inside and I was just scared, and it was like the scariest experience of my life.”

Marlon ended up telling very close people and a few family members. “It was like I told them and then I forgot about it. The main thing was, I never told myself. Because every time I thought about it, I felt dirty.

“I cleaned myself more and more. I’d have a shower, I was trying to wash it away, but I couldn’t. It was so destroying.”


After watching It’s A Sin he decided to post a video on Tiktok to talk about his diagnosis and raise awareness.

“After the show I realised, the longer I keep quiet, the more it’s going to eat me up inside. Not speaking about it has been the toughest thing for me for a long time.

“And every time you want to tell someone, you have to come out all over again. And then you have to be scared of the rejection.”

Marlon said the video he posted had 100,000 views within 24 hours. “I did have support at first and then it turned right the other way round," he said.

“All the comments I’d get were ‘you’re vile’, ‘you need to be put down’, ‘if we see you, we’d kill you’. It just became like death threats. They were telling me that I was dirty and that the Government needs to castrate us because we shouldn’t be out and have sexual intercourse with people, because we’re spreading disease. It kind of took me back then. I was like ‘I’m trying so hard to help others and finally accept myself at the time and this happens’.

'I am not the virus'

But he is determined not to let the disease define him. “I realised there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I am not the virus, so why should I let it control me? So I decided to speak out.

“I don’t have to be scared about what anyone’s going to say because everyone knows. If I cared about everyone’s opinion, I would never stand a chance, Now I just need to care about the people that love me.”

His HIV treatment consists of taking a tablet a day. “I take it in the night,” he said. “Every time I take the tablet it reminds me of HIV. So I take it in the night before I go to sleep, and that way when I wake up in the morning, that’s not the first thing I think of.

“And that’s another reason why I say I want to help other people because these small things do change a lot.”


Marlon is being monitored by his doctor and has blood tests every six months.

“They expect us to live more of a healthier lifestyle than people living without the virus because we take such good care of ourselves,” he said.

“You can’t pass the virus on, it’s not possible, it’s been proven. I’m on medication, the virus stops with me and that’s as far as it goes.”

But despite his physical health not being threatened by HIV, he said it is harder mentally.

“Physically you’ll be fine with the medication. But it’s the mental that needs to be worked on. I’m okay, I’m doing a lot better than I thought I would be at coping with all the hate I’m getting,” he said.

“It drives me more, the more people say negative things, the more I want to get it out there. And I want it to be spoken about. I want to change the whole stigma around HIV. My whole dynamic is to change everything because it shouldn’t be lived in fear anymore.

“So, my passion now is just to fight it and support others and raise awareness.”

Dr Jessica Daniel, consultant in sexual health and HIV at Great Western Hospital said there are various ways to stop HIV transmission.

She said: “PrEP - Pre-exposure prophylaxis - is a drug that you take every day, and it stops you from acquiring HIV, it’s extremely effective, it reduces HIV acquisition by at least 80 per cent.

“On the whole, most people take it daily. But there’s another way of taking it which is called on-demand PrEP and you’re just taking it around the time you’re having sex. That’s only really good for people who can plan when they are having sex. I would say 90 per cent of people just take PrEP daily. It reduces that anxiety that they might contract HIV.”

To watch Marlon’s videos visit: tiktok.com/@marlon.xox/