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Author Topic: New To the Site  (Read 2147 times)

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Offline slb

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  • Posts: 4
New To the Site
« on: April 20, 2018, 01:28:19 pm »
Hello everyone.  I'm new to the site and I've spent a good amount of time reading a lot of your old posts, which have really moved and helped me.  I want to thank you for all of your insightful and gut-wrenching comments. 

I'm a long-term survivor of the plague.  I was diagnosed HIV+ in October 1985, though I'm pretty sure I was infected in 1981.  I was more than lucky:  I didn't decline to AIDS until 2009.  A couple of years ago I heard an interview of Edmund White on the radio, and he revealed that he, too, was diagnosed in 1985, and that he, too, remained healthy and didn't decline to the point in which he had to go on medication until about the same time I did.  He was told that he was in fact a "slow progressor," which comprises only 3% of all HIV+ people.  So I guess that's me as well.  I have to remind myself of just how lucky I've been every time I complain about not getting laid enough or something.  Of course the gratitude I feel for being in that 3% is mixed with profound guilt.  I truly understand the "survivor's guilt" that survivors of wars and Holocausts subsequently feel.  No doubt all of us on this site do. 

Someone recently asked what it was like to go through the 1980s, and whether I would have done anything differently.  I wrote back this:

I was 25 living in San Francisco in 1982 when the plague (initially dubbed “gay cancer”) first became widely known in the gay community.  Little did we know that so many of us had already been infected.  I forget the exact percentages.  Was it 40% of gay men in urban areas like LA or San Francisco?  50%??  In 1982 fear gripped the entire community.  I remember that the bathhouses emptied that year.  People were scared to have sex with one another.  Soon enough, you’d hear gallows humor about how we had all become our grandparents.  Our friends, lovers, and acquaintances were all dying, and no one can have sex anymore!  I remember thinking that very thought to myself when my elderly parents began complaining ten years ago how hard it is for them to watch all their friends die one after the other— forgetting that they were talking to someone who experienced that in his twenties and thirties. The AIDS generation of gay men became a new brand of Holocaust survivors— with all the guilt and mixed emotions that that entails.  In 1982 I had two roommates: both died of AIDS.  I had two best friends: both got AIDS; one died; the second killed himself when he was diagnosed with a particularly gruesome AIDS-related condition.  I had a boyfriend that year:  he got his AIDS diagnosis in the late 1980s, and, as far as I know, lived to see the cocktail come out in 1996 and thus survived.  I went to a weekly support group of twenty-something gay men:  half the guys didn’t make it out alive.  It is still difficult for me to visit San Francisco today because it feels like a graveyard.

After my HIV diagnosis in 1985, I regularly went to the myriad of support groups that popped up in Los Angeles (where I was then living).  People talked about how the crisis created a unique environment in which a lot of us gay men (normally aloof and full of attitude) became remarkably intimate and open with one another.  It was a brief moment of true community that would fade once HIV/AIDS became a chronic condition.  But it was hard not to be kind and open with one another as we began watching our friends and peers die, as we began our daily treks to the hospital wards, as we nursed our loved ones to the best of our abilities, and as we wondered when our turn would come.  Another boyfriend of mine died of AIDS in December 1990.  He had been disowned by his conservative Cuban father when he came out in his late teens and had never emotionally recovered from that rejection.  One of my most haunting memories is seeing that father trying to make amends by nursing him night and day during the last weeks of his life, and tearfully asking for his forgiveness when he was taking his final breaths.  Moments like that were pretty common for gay men in those years.

Looking back, I can’t say that I would have done anything differently.  We got infected not realizing what was out there. We were all completely in the dark.  I think, all in all, we handled the catastrophe pretty damn well, given the paucity of support and the extent of our isolation in those years.  And so many of us were so young and so emotionally ill-equipped to take on what had befallen us.  But I think that the plague has left its toll on what remains of the AIDS generation.  Many of us are broken survivors. And largely forgotten survivors at that.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2018, 01:44:30 pm by slb »

Offline em

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  • Posts: 427
Re: New To the Site
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2018, 10:07:29 pm »

thank you for sharing your story

Offline harleymc

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  • Posts: 1,180
Re: New To the Site
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2018, 01:12:25 am »
Hi Slb, welcome.

 Sounds like a familiar story we lost so much but I'm also surprised at the enormous amounts of resilience, compassion and openness from the community..

We did do well :)

Offline weasel

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  • Posts: 1,892
Re: New To the Site
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2018, 08:11:16 am »

 Nice to meet you SIB  ,
                                    I hope you will post some more . I don't get here to often anymore . Your story brings back so many memories . 

                                                               Be well , Carl
" Live and let Live "


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