01/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

AIDS Awareness

"The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief -
But the pain of grief is only a shadow
When compared with the pain of never risking love."

~ Hilary Stanton Zunin

Gadgetry, like our planet, seems to get smaller and smaller every day: tiny cell phones, itsy-bitsy music downloading devices, digital cameras the size of a bankcard. We now have so many opportunities to be or feel closer to others--those that live far away and even those right near-by. We can call a friend, congratulate a neighbor, or sing happy birthday to a niece, anywhere from anywhere. We can listen to Aretha Franklin, Nine-Inch Nails, Jerry Garcia or the strings of Montovani at any time. We can witness, through instant images, an infant's first breath, a wedding we unfortunately were unable to attend, or undergo an operation with doctor-speaking-to-doctor via telecom. Everything brought to us because of the mass availability of mini "stuff" that we so eagerly gobble up.

But with all this meteoric technological and biomedical progress all around us, it baffles me that something so small as a virus can still elude it all and remain a pandemic "killer" in the 21st century. An estimated 39.5 million men, women and children across the planet live with HIV; the destructive, non-discriminatory virus known to cause AIDS.

Randy Shilts (Author), Vito Russo (Critic/Journalist), James Merrill (Poet), Willi Smith (Fashion Designer), David Wojnarowitz (Artist), Isaac Asimov (Writer), Way Bandy (Make up Artist), Tina Chow (Model), Perry Ellis (Fashion Designer), Felix Gonzalez-Torres (Artist), Halston (Fashion Designer), Keith Haring (Artist), Robert Mapelthorpe (Photographer), Herb Ritts (Photographer), Wayland Flowers (Ventriloquist), Robert Joffrey (Choreographer), Rudolph Nureyev (Ballet Dancer), Alvin Ailey (Choreographer), Michael Bennett (Director), Arthur Ashe (Tennis Player), Sylvester (Singer), Liberace (Pianist), Freddie Mercury (Singer), Klaus Nomi (Singer), Lance Loud (Columnist), Peter Allen (Singer/Songwriter), Ryan White (Child AIDS Activist), Steve Rubell (Studio 54 Raconteur), Elizabeth Glazer (AIDS Activist), Robert Reed (Actor), Anthony Perkins (Actor), Rock Hudson (Actor), Brad Davis (Actor), Amanda Blake (Actor)...all of them gone from AIDS-related complications. A very shortlisted "who's-who" of the legion of creative, talented individuals infected and now deceased, who, while alive, became beloved household names. But celebrities living with or dying from AIDS is but the tip of a tremendous iceberg.

On World AIDS Day, we need to remember those we have lost, but we also need to remember the 39.5 million anonymous individuals and households that are also affected by and infected with HIV... for instance households like mine.

My partner Richard and I met almost twenty years ago and have been together as a couple ever since. I remember the first time I saw him... his long chestnut hair, wonderful hands, and most of all his twinkly squinty eyes. But when he opened his mouth I knew I had found the person I was meant to be with. A gentle voice, a great sense of humor and style, and an appreciation of all things fine and good, are ways I defined him then and now. He's pretty great.

He told me right from the start that he was HIV-positive and probably had been since 1982. As a person who is and remains HIV-negative, I freaked but replied by saying "Hey, we all have 'baggage.'" He has always referred to my response as the answer he hoped to hear from a potential mate--particularly in the late 1980s at the height of AIDS hysteria. But on my end, when he told me he was positive, I thought he was so brave.

Many years into our relationship we look back and laugh because while he was so forthcoming, I probably should have been as revealing. It took me years to reveal my junk to personal insecurities paired with a truly whack-o, "stranger than fiction" family history. As much as he feared I might run away after hearing his disclosure, I feared he might speed away had I actually showed him my baggage when we met!

We now live together and keep our home as chemical-free as possible. His 30-odd medications a day are keeping him healthy, but often reeling from side effects too numerous to mention. So together we figured, why add the toxicity of household cleaners to the mix, when it was so easy not to.

He and I have greatly simplified our cleaning regimen and only use non-toxic combinations of baking soda, borax, lemon, white vinegar and salt to clean our home. There's nothing new or unusual about any of them, and, in fact, they've been used for cleaning for centuries. They're pure, wholesome and natural--and none will hurt you or your family or your pets. Sure, I'm usually touting these recipes because they are good for the environment, but, personally more important, for households like ours with people with compromised immune systems, it's just plain old healthier.

And while Richard often thinks our house is freakishly clean (an obsession of mine) we're both happy and healthy and do everything we can to remain in my (HIV) "negative" way and he in his (HIV) "positive" way.

Life isn't perfect (whose is?) but ours works.