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Author Topic: It Came and Took Something Away, From All of Us  (Read 1307 times)

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Offline thedingoman

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It Came and Took Something Away, From All of Us
« on: May 27, 2010, 06:00:14 PM »
It was not visible, at least not to my eyes, or anyone else, not because it was quick, or stealth or ghostly. It was benign, riding piggy back on the aura of amour, of hope, of feelings we all knew would bring us pleasure, joy and the ecstasy we often sought after paying our dues, pulling our fair share after a 40 hour work week, the acceptance, as a part of building a life together till death do us part. If not for those reasons then for just pure selfishness and amusement. Instant gratification. Like a drug it disguised its intentions behind the veil of pleasure, masking its true aim, setting up shop and then slowing picking away the pieces. What HIV and AIDS took away was more than just physical; it was psychological, social, and emotional. It wasn't just those of us that were and are infected, but also those around us that were not. We all felt that wave of fear because there was no defense. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. No cure. A helpless situation. Whether you or just surviving all you could do was watch as this scrounge wreaked havoc in your life, and by proxy those around you.

If you had it you were quarantined. Maybe not by physical isolation but by emotional and psychological distance. People avoided you. Relationships crumbled, people were dismissed from their jobs, and there was shame, betrayal, nervous breakdowns and suicide. If you didn't have it you circled the wagons, in your mind at least, hoping to keep this sinister pathogen at bay. Straights, having shunned homosexuals as a regular practice anyway had more cannon fodder to harass and marginalize, which shored up their homophobia and giving it a false legitimacy.

One of the worse things to unfold through all this was the way a surviving partner's life was turned upside down by a system that does not recognize this union. Then in steps the family of the deceased, they intrude on the surviving partner's life and take the possessions of their dead relative. Possessions that are not rightfully theirs. Those possessions are the culmination of memories shared, of milestones made and professions of love. Those material things represented a life together family members did not honor or respect but instead assaulted, with the consent of a society that tells these people that they are second class, not worthy of full citizenship because of what we think if them....daily. Thoughts that manifest themselves everyday from subtle discriminatory behavior to extremes like physical attacks.

Once you are diagnosed, the sun sets on that life you once lived. Whether your test results are positive or not, you know that the plans in your life have changed. Your choices have been altered, some eliminated. You see it out on the singles scene, the meat rack and the personals. HIV Neg-UB2 or HIV Neg 'intend to stay that way' ; HIV and AIDS splintered the gay community. When you are HIV positive you see the way everyone looks at you differently. Sure the pretense is there the 'understanding'. For some it was a resolve to, and of our strength of character.

We soon learned who our real friends were. We also discovered what we were really made of.

The sun rose again to a new day and a new life. Some relationships died, but out of that death new relationships were born. Some guys fled, figuratively and literally from ground zero, away from the infected and the sick. Perhaps it wasn't the disease that made them turn tail and run, but the social stigma and its consequences. Some found refuge in drink and drugs. Fragile egos were no match for HIV and AIDS.

They didn't just cut off their sick friends but all of their friends that happened to be gay. They wanted to distance themselves from the bug that could tell the difference between a gay person and a straight person.

If that wasn't so sad it would be laughable. To think that there are people in this day and age that believe there's a virus with the ability to identify people based on their sexual orientation. At least that asinine notion died a quick death when the reports from Africa and India started circulating. Or did it? Proving that the majority of the people living with HIV and AIDS are heterosexual. Beyond people retreating into substances to numb the pain and drown the fear, there was something even more disconcerting and disheartening. Apathy.

Maybe it was a form of denial about the state of affairs, but like that deer standing in the highway and staring into the head lights of an oncoming vehicle, some people froze. They didn't know what to do, with themselves or those in need. Some didn't run away, but instead rolled up their sleeves and dove into the fray, much the way those firemen ran into the twin towers to rescue the trapped occupants.

HIV and AIDS had a matrix of suffering and misery that extended to all corners of the world. You never died once. It was the stigma of the disease that made some die a thousand deaths before the ultimate state of necrosis set in. Part of that death was the killing of the spirit. Ironically 'it seems' the fortunate were killed by fearful hate filled denizens in countries like Uganda, China and The Congo. Perhaps having your life taken away by the hands of another was less exacting, and in some twisted thinking, more humane than watching yourself atrophy; taking pills daily and getting poked, prodded and tested the rest of your life. All the while kidding yourself into thinking one day you'll awaken and will be all cured.

Less dogmatic but equally harsh in treatment were people like Ryan White who was terrorized in his home town by the fearful and the ignorant. There were no winners, everyone lost. But then why an I looking at this as winners and losers? HIV and AIDS took that fighting spirit, that hope that humility and that dignity away from all of us.

It is no game, there are no winners, but it is strange how scores are kept on the willing and the unwilling. Lines are drawn and tallies are kept by counting the invaders in your bloodstream that are slowly picking away at your life. Your viral load read out is the score board. On one side of the drawn line: Life, the other side Death, depending on your viral load you are closer to one or the other. Your immune system does what it what it has been designed to do for millions of years, but it's not enough. You bring in the big guns. Man made. They don't eliminate the invader, they don't cure the host, they just beat the hell out of the uninvited guests, pounding them into submission.

The little buggers run and hide, like the cartoon roaches in those television ads when that animated can of raid walks into the room and zapps them. Or, like the 'insurgents' in Iraq, dodging humvees and tanks that are rolling up and down their city streets. There are setbacks, nothing is free, everything has a trade off. You drop a lot of bombs in a war that's going to have consequences on the environment and possibly the offspring of the recipients. Dump a lot of drugs into your system there will be some form of side effects, for most of us. Sometimes the host can't handle the drugs or the invaders. Sometimes like a roadside bomb blowing up an armored personnel carrier full of soldiers, the virus gets the upper hand.

HIV and AIDS took away our sense of inquiry and threw the blanket of fear over our eyes, shrouding the light and blocking the path to enlightenment and understanding. The unknown became magnified, and rife with uncertainty. We pay more attention to that blemish that doesn't go away for months. A sore throat send us into panic mode. Some doctors (still) dishonor the Hippocratic Oath; choosing to not treat.

Denying some people the help they need because of their fear of the unknown. They could not think outside the box beyond what they were trained to do in medical school. Few were willing to take chances. Free thinking was taken away from us. Instead we have allowed the narrow minds of the timid to spin us into retrograde and onto a path of regression to the 'neo-dark ages'. Opening up cans of worms in the minds of the ignorant.

When I dropped out of the work force for a few years to care for my sick friends and associates I didn't discuss much about what was happening in my life to my family and straight friends. I knew them fairly well enough to know how they would react. They weren't unique.

One day I did open up to one friend. I told her I was a care giver to someone with full blown AIDS. "Oh, is he gay?" She asked.

I said "What the hell difference does that make you stupid bitch; why does everyone have to preoccupy themselves with what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms!" Well that's what I was thinking but it wasn't my response to her question.

I replied calmly, "I don't know how he contracted AIDS, I didn't ask and it doesn't matter to me." You see, it took something from me. Though I bit my tongue a lot during that period of my life, it was really tiresome hearing the stupid words coming out of the mouths of these people. I tried to be understanding. I know now that they were scared and didn't know any better. Humans don't like mortality thrown in their faces.

Spirit as I mentioned here us, along with the normal functioning of the body was taken away by HIV and AIDS. The body and the spirit are one. The mind. There is no separation of the two. A healthy body cannot function without a healthy mind. It is the stress of being labeled a leper, different, rejected and not a part of society that can weaken the immune system. Stress from suppressing one's feelings can depress the immune system. When there is no one to confide in without fear of rejection, harassment or reprisals the immune system suffers. Keeping your feelings bottled up can have a negative impact on your overall well being.

When the spirit is beaten down the body cannot defend itself. I guess this is where I'm suppose to say "think positive" or "cheer up" and all that-but it takes more. I think one of the first things a person experiencing the impact of HIV and AIDS, whether you are positive or not is to seek spiritual reinforcement. Seek out people that you care about. I think it's important to direct some of your energy into caring for some one less fortunate than yourself. This is a gesture that feeds the spirit. It might sound a bit selfish on the surface but it is a reciprocal relationship that does hang in the balance of life and death. If you can find it in a church that's cool. It's not a one size fits all and we must seek it out where it works best for you. Physical contact is very important. We've discussed here (PozVille) in the past how important and hand hold or a hug can be.

Moving forward, the best way to get back that which was taken from us is to accept who we are, keep an open mind, an open heart and an ear to allow others a confidant. Even if there is a major breakthrough medically, it will not be easy moving past the stigmas attached to what the world is dealing with in terms of this disease. It is important that POZ networks keep reaching out to people and let them know that they are not alone. Support systems within social groups encourages the will to live. A little bit of attention, advice or time well wasted together just doing something meaningless for an afternoon can make a difference, for all parties involved.

Unlike hotlines, therapy groups or shrinks, POZ social networks are giving us an avenue where we can take that first step to getting back what has been taken from us. There is a relative amount of anonymity on POZ networks so you can ease in at your own pace. Social networks like this are helping in laying the foundation for healing, and for people to get a foothold in an effort to get back their dignity, their humanity and their lives.

The above post originally appeared for Memorial Day Weekend on my network at www.pozville.org/memorialday (dingo)
« Last Edit: May 27, 2010, 06:02:12 PM by thedingoman »
the dingo


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