Recently I attended a forum titled "Is This My Beautiful Life?" It focused on the veterans of the front lines of AIDS: activists and survivors. Like veterans of Vietnam and Iraq, many have not fully recovered. I seem to have. However, there's a deep grief that fills my heart.
In this episode Ji Wallace, the 2000 Olympic silver medalist in trampoline from Australia, talks about the importance of knowing and speaking about your HIV status. He also tells me his stories about coming out as HIV-positive to his parents and his boyfriend Shaun.
Without PWA (people with AIDS) participating in all levels of HIV/AIDS awareness, education, research and support programs, there is no passion and therefore no motivation to move forward. Even if you work behind the scenes, it makes a difference.
I didn't expect to live long enough to write this when, 20 years ago today, my doctor called to tell me that my HIV test had come back positive. The news hit me like a bomb; hyperbole or not, back then it was still pretty much considered a death sentence.
Over the years, Lewis and I became liver-recovery buddies. "Oh, I am sure I had far more fun," Lewis said one day during our first year of doctor's visits, after I declared that at least I'd had fun destroying my liver. "Indirectly far more fun, that is," he added in his usual enigmatic way.
It was all well and good to be front and center as an HIV-positive man during the first years of the AIDS crisis. It's easier being a role model when your face looks good on the poster. But then, slowly but surely, a common side effect of HIV medications, facial wasting, began to appear.
You may think that people with HIV are no different from anyone else, and you're right, for the most part. But if you are living with HIV, here are a few ideas for resolutions you may want to think about for the coming year, in no particular order.
On a cold winter day in Manchester, England, I met Patrick Ettenes, an HIV activist and writer for Out Northwest. What really made me want to meet him was his statement on the phone that "HIV is the best thing that ever happened to me!"
When I went on Project Runway, I didn't really plan on getting into the subject of my HIV status. But when I revealed my HIV status, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It turned out to be one of the most important conversations I had ever had. It changed my life.
For the successful gay 20-something, the threat of HIV can almost seem outdated, a scary memory that our community is lucky to forget. This dangerous fallacy is what led me to get gobsmacked with a dose of reality during my routine, "socially responsible" STD test.
Our collective mentality when it comes to treating the epidemic in older adults is a pre-1983 one. We are in the dark in too many ways, working without the basic information and data we need to address this population. Thus, the need for new research, education and outreach is critical.
Recently I wrote a blog about how HIV prevention should move beyond handing people condoms. My story wasn't that straightforward, and as I reveal how I became infected with HIV, hopefully you'll see my reasoning.
Instead of throwing a condom in a young gay black man's hand, first look at what his world looks like. What are his life circumstances? What societal barriers prevent him from getting the message on HIV? Does he feel that he has any worth?
I have a tale to tell. Although I am not singular, there are not many of us left who went all the way to AIDS and came back whole. I am an AIDS elder. I hold my story and the story of a generation who lived and died in an unprecedented era of plague.
I am not ashamed of my HIV-positive status, and I don't hide the fact that I have HIV, but I have never taken the time to write my personal viewpoint, mostly due to fear: fear of the response from the ignorant, or from people who are just hateful.
How shall we live, knowing the time of youthful athletic prowess is brief, knowing, as HIV/AIDS reminds us, that life is fragile, precious and short? For me, in my life, with my time, I choose not to be a victim.
Loneliness can devour a soul left alone for too long. So, when Robert's case worker called him with an invitation for a Christmas party, he was anxious and started to feel alive again. "Maybe, just maybe," Robert thought, "someone will save me."
It's sick and twisted that I feel I'm supposed to be "grateful" that I qualify for an insurance program intended for poor people. It's bizarre that having HIV allows me to get my medications free while millions of other Americans have to choose between their medications and, say, food.