18 April 2007

Another year passes...

Twenty-one years ago in April 1986 my life changed forever. I figured that I would have said this about September 1981 (that's when I came out to everyone) but more important is that date in April 1986.

I went through hell and back when I first came out to my friends and family. I had spent so many years living a lie and in the end it almost killed me. When I finely told people I felt all of that pressure lift from my shoulders. I cruised along for the next five years exploring my new life and it was most definitely a new life for me. During that time I lost many of my old friends and relations with my family were strained, but they got better with time.

I was a young gay man living in the 1980's and the world was one of outrageous excess. I like so many others lived life like there was no tomorrow. We spent to much on clothes, cars, apartments and other material items. We partied to much, drugs and alcohol were our friend. Sex was just something you did, and you did it a lot. What we didn't do when we had that sex was we didn't use condoms. We didn't know we had too.

In 1981 there was a ripple of conversation beginning in a few large cities more specifically in San Francisco, LA and New York. That conversation became a large unknown as a clusters of gay men were suddenly getting sick and doing so very quickly. Those men were also dying from what ever was making them sick. In Dallas Texas we heard the rumors but no one was really sure what the truth was and unfortunately for many we continued to lead our lives to excess.

As the years progressed we named this disease. First back in 1981 it was called GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) but health authorities soon realised that nearly half of the people identified with the syndrome were not homosexual men. In 1982, the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) introduced the term AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) to describe the newly recognized syndrome. In 1983 the virus that caused this syndrome was discovered by a French scientist and a year later an American scientist confirmed this discovery. However there was a huge debate as to who should be credited because each scientist called their virus something else even though they were talking about the same thing. Eventually in 1986 it was agreed that this new virus would be called HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

By 1986 the conversation about HIV was stronger than it had been but many of us were still living on the edge and occasionally we did not heed the new warnings that we need to use condoms. I lost so many friends in those first years between 1981 and 1986. It was a bad time in the gay community but at the same time it was a time of great commoradery because no one was going to look out for us as many thought we deserved this disease and that we desreved to die. They gay community started support groups and other organisations to help those who other were going to leave to die. I continued losing friends all the way up to 1998. I remember one month in 1984 I lost 30 friends and or acquaintances all in the same month.

I had the worst flu ever in September 1985 and was ill for the entire month. Even after the initial illness wore off I just never felt right. I went to see the doctor and he kept giving more antibiotics for various chest infections and strange inflammations. I had not come out to my doctor so he had no idea that there was even a remote chance that I could have been exposed to HIV. I alos was not sure I wanted to know if I had been exposed. By late March 1986 both the doctor and I were extremely frustrated trying to find out what was wrong with me. I finally decided that I had to tell him and that I thought it would be best that we run an HIV test. We did just that and a few weeks later (the test took longer in those days) we got the results.

I was HIV positive!

Like almost every person I have talked to and/or have know personally that received the same news, the first thing I did was cry! At that time finding out you were HIV+ meant you were going to die. There was no treatment to prolong life and there definitely was no cure. So where was I supposed to go from there? In answering that question it would take me way to long answer and it would make this post even longer that it is now. The short version is this. I worked until I got so sick and couldn't work anymore. I tried ever new drug that came out and some of them almost killed me. I tried to lead a normal life and found a partner but unfortunately he eventually died from complications of HIV and I buried him. I tried love again but he also died from complications of HIV and I buried another partner. I almost gave up but finally met someone who is still with me.

I am still living with HIV every day twenty-one years later. I take 12 pills a day to stay alive a;long with a positve attitude, which is sometimes very difficult, and I look forward to every day. So as another year passes I am grateful to be here but I am also aware that I have fought long and hard to be where I am and will continue to do so because I am worthy of living. If you are truly interested in reading all of the sorted details, you can do so here.


Tom said...

Congrats on 21 years...

My Partner (Jim) has also survived 21 years with the virus... after being raped when he was 18.

He has just changed meds again, due to resistance to older meds, but is alive, healthy and well...

You keep up the positive thinking and those that truly love you will always be there to support you! Including us out here in the blogging world...

Love ya man!

mark said...

Wow, 21 years. I feel lucky being at 15 years. We've come a long way since those early days. Things were still iffy in the early 90's. You have a wonderful attitude about it.

love ya