AIDS…I remember when it was first televised nationally. I was 12 I believe. I remember the new epidemic known only by 4 single letters. There was no real information out about it…just ignorance rampantly being passed like the disease itself. Fear and pandemonium about getting “the sickness” and it being known as the “gay man’s disease”.
Well 23 years later…it is even more so widespread. A national day dedicated to it’s awareness and endless charities for disease management and a search for a cure has not slowed down the spread of a disease which has taken the wheel. I’ve known several people infected. The first I remember being the upstairs neighbor of my grandmother. He, his wife and their two children were like family. He was in my dad’s generation…the generation of drug use in the 60’s and 70’s. He fell victim, but I’m not sure how it is he got it. All I know is he died and I knew what had taken his life. The next 2-3 deaths were male members of a church I once belonged to. There was a young guy a couple of years older than me whom was CLEARLY flaming gay…and had been allowed to stay with my family. His “sponsor” was our pastor and had asked my mother for the favor. Jason was allowed to stay with us and worked directly across the street at…ironically enough…the neighborhood health center. He would go out and meet guys, party and drink. He’d tell me (I was then 17 or 18) about his escapades and how he “took it”. He died a few years later after having moved out. The next to die was our pastor. He died and it hurt a lot. He was so talented musically and had convinced me to be a soloist in the choir when I was too shy to open my mouth to sing a note.
I heard of a few people dying of the disease after that, but the worst to date was my sister’s father. Not to mention…he died in front of us. He breathed his last breath after my mother prayed for his transcendence. That was 5 years ago, and it still makes me sad. For him, the source was drugs…as was the source for my uncle. My Uncle Larry is my father’s baby brother. They both did drugs, but it was my uncle who contracted the virus that led to AIDS. I found out about 6yrs ago…and though he’s suffered from encephalitis and other sickness that eventually led to his inability to walk…he’s still fighting for his life today. He’s a shell of his former self, but he is here.
I get checked as often as possible. I don’t have a partner and I’m not rushing to get one. The man who comes into my life will be checked alongside of me. There still is no guarantee that it will be 100% preventive…but it is responsible. I just wanted to share that story.
As I was re-reading this blog, I spotted the time, which was the exact date that my cousin died last year. They say it was kidney failure, but I found out later from a family member that it was AIDS. I cannot believe that the DAY I found out about his being sick, was the same day he died. I didn’t even get to say goodbye…RIP, Tim. I love you!