I’ve survived another calendar year. As we approach my sober anniversary, we first must stop and remember all those men who went before me. Men I knew in real life. People I met, lived with, partied with, suffered with. All of them had a story, a life and love. Every story is important. Here are some of the stories. let us take a moment and remember, to offer prayers, and our thoughts.
I knew Callie in Fort Lauderdale. I had gotten a job at a Travel Agency. Little did I know that the same desk I was now sitting at once belonged to Callie. The day his quilt was displayed I went to honor him and bring him flowers.
Vito, a well known activist and mentor was part of Common Threads, Stories from the quilt.
Dennis was the lover of the man who owned the physical building the STUD was located in. My greatest memory of Dennis was the night we got to see Patti Labelle in concert. It was one of the greatest experiences of our lives.
It is not enough that we take one day to remember. Memory is an every day event. We must keep talking about AIDS because the disease is not over. Yes, with proper diagnosis and treatment, people with AIDS today can live a normal life span just like any negative person.
AIDS is still a problem in many places on earth. Treatment is something that every human being deserves, no matter what the story. This is not the end of AIDS or our stories.
We live, we were here, and we will be heard.
Cue the music – start the fog machine – blue light GOBO slow pans across the floor through dimly lit space, and the first beat comes…
I am alone, it is early, the bar is not yet open, but I am there alone. Just me, the music and the spirit of God. Well, what little spirit of God there was at that time of my life. It is mid-summer in Ft. Lauderdale. I have just told Todd that I was going to die…
This was one of the hardest days of my life. How do you tell someone you love, that you are going to die? The day I was diagnosed, July 8th, 1994 was the worst day of my life. Bar none …
My then boyfriend packed his things and left in the car as soon as he heard the news. All of my friends found out and they all took off for the hills. The only people still standing by me were Todd, Roy, and a choice few friends at the bar that I was working at.
I called a family meeting and that proved to be a failure. Because I was first gay, now I was HIV+ and that was doubly sinful and abhorrent to them.
If you were around during the height of the AIDS epidemic you would have seen employers fire sick people from their jobs, landlords throwing tenants out on the streets. You would have seen families, lovers and partners toss their sick significant others out into the street as well.
We had nothing left but the little dignity we had left. And the ones who stayed were the ones who would care for, tend to, care for and bury the rest. Because back in the 90’s, there were no comprehensive care systems. We did not have drugs that we have today. We did not have doctors dedicated to taking care of us.
The medical systems had to be built from the ground up. Many doctors didn’t know from AIDS and they had to learn how to care for so many sick people.
I bought several poster boards that I made calendars out of and stuck them on my kitchen wall to mark the days I had left to live. That was 540 days …
My friend Roy used to tear them up whenever he came over because he did not want me focusing on the day that I was supposed to die. I had bigger fish to fry. And Todd kept me on a short leash. What he did saved my life. There will never be another man in my life like Todd.
Hundreds of people I knew died. HUNDREDS !!!!
Every year the quilt was rolled out, we went to see it to mark the new names added to the list of the dead. And we also went to see who was still alive.
This is why we celebrate World AIDS Day, because those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it. This generation knows very little of what it was like for us – back in the day.
That is one reason I opened this blog. To catalog and collect my memories. So that in case I die, I was here. I left my mark on the world with the stories of my life that I have collected here for you all to read.
Gay is still a dirty word in the world. And is still met with condemnation and abhorrence. The face of HIV has changed over the last decade. New medications have come along, and many of us who are left from days gone by, are now on those powerful cocktails of drugs that we must take daily to stay alive.
I was there when it all started for me. When there were no real set drugs and I tested every drug that came off the pike from the doctors I sought out after my diagnosis.
In the beginning, we had a drug farm in Fort Lauderdale, and they would collect medication from people who had died. They would repackage those drugs and give them to us, as we could not get medication very easily. And I did that for two years. I moved to Miami because there were doctors there who were trained in care for HIV positive folks.
And from those doctors, I tested every drug that came down the pike. And this has been what I have done here in Montreal, since the day I arrived here. I have the best in medical care here and a doctor who is on the cutting edge of HIV medical treatment.
HIV is not a death sentence, unless you live in a country that cannot get medication. Where death rates are terribly high. We need to do more to get drugs to countries that so badly need them. Drug companies need to do more for the world than what they are doing today. They are NOT doing ENOUGH !!!
Today we remember all those who have died.
We pray for their souls and their families.
And we ask you for your continued prayers and support.
If you don’t know your HIV status, then I suggest you get tested. If you are an active gay man, it is your DUTY to know these things. The owness falls on you to get tested and be RESPONSIBLE for your life and also for the lives of men you have sex with.
HIV knows no barrier, creed, color or sexual orientation. Straight people get HIV too.
Nobody is immune from getting HIV if you are not careful or diligent about sex. Doing nothing is stupid. There is no excuse for why you wouldn’t or shouldn’t get tested, it could SAVE YOUR LIFE !!!
Rapid treatment after diagnosis today can be very helpful to living a full and happy life. It didn’t use to be like this. In the 90’s HIV was a death sentence. Thank God I had what I had or I surely would not be here today writing to you.
Be Responsible. Be Diligent and Be Smart. Get tested !!!
Take care of yourself and each other.
Today would have been Pedro’s 40th birthday. He died the year I was diagnosed, 1994. This is one of the many quilts sewn with love by his friends and family. I took this picture some years ago when the quilt was shown in South Florida. We should never forget the friends who went before us. Sometimes I still wonder why I am still here. And why not them ?
We remember you Pedro …