I Survived the Great AIDS Plague

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    Mar 03, 2013 5:17 PM GMT
    I just finished reading the thread Loosing my Best Friends to AIDS begun by Scruffypup (http://www.realjock.com/gayforums/2922300/). My heart goes out to you, Scruffy. I'm sorry for your loss.

    In the thread, the topic of AIDS jokes came up. To think people joke about AIDS. Utterly unbelievable.

    People who did not live through the Great AIDS Plague of the 80s and 90s have no idea what it was like. I survived while living in one of the epicenters: New York City

    Hearing horror stories of untimely deaths, shockingly poor medical treatment, and unprecedented bigotry were normal. Seeing dieing men walking with great difficulty in the streets of gay neighborhoods was normal. Helping friends die was normal. Doing volunteer work to help people with AIDS whom you didn't even know heretofore was normal. Attending funerals was normal. Morning was normal. Sorrow, fear, anxiety, depression, and anger were normal. Day after day, year after year. Relentlessly.

    But I survived. Unfortunately, many men I knew did not. My first lover, Robert, was among the early casualties. He died only six months after being diagnosed with the disease. When he died we were no longer lovers; our personalities were such that a long-term romance was impossible. But while it lasted it was intense and passionate. After it, we remained close friends. Still, I feel cheated by fate; I only knew him for about a year and a half before he fell to AIDS in his early thirties. That was 26 years ago.

    Over the years, I have come to understand how important our romance was to me. There are a host of reasons. For one thing, our relationship taught me how to love another man. What really tears my heart out is that I can't tell him and thank him because he's dead. Sometimes I think of this and I burst into tears. It feels as though he died only yesterday.

    So, I did the next best thing. I recently returned to New York City for a vacation. I went to the stupendous Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine and found the chapel where I attended his funeral service. Then I wrote him a letter. I still have it.

    Among other things, I wrote: "You will always be in my heart, mind, and body. I am fortunate. I have memories of you. They are a supreme comfort. I say to myself: many people haven't experienced passion like ours. But we did, I did. I'm lucky. I will always have this to hang onto. Thank you. So long as I live, you live. Goodbye for now." When I was done, I wept bitterly.

    So . . . never, ever joke about AIDS.
  • Sportsfan1

    Posts: 479

    Mar 03, 2013 9:21 PM GMT
    Thank you for such a beautiful post. I feel the same way in so many areas. I also lost a partner to AIDS. I miss him more than I can express. He also taught me about unselfish love. I was with him as he took his last breath. OUr relationship was intense full of passion, energy and at times anger that AIDS cut our time together short. I wrote him a letter as well. I keep it in my family Bible. I am so thankful I was able to survive the Aids epidemic. I live near Los Angeles. Thank you again!
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    Mar 03, 2013 9:37 PM GMT
    I missed the height of the AIDS epidemic, except as an uninvolved bystander, though I'm older than most here. By the time I was out and having gay sex in 1995 the basic concepts of safe sex had been established, and I followed them. Still, I lost my first partner to AIDS, already poz when we met, who literally died in my arms.

    Whenever I complain about having missed out on so many years of living gay, due to my self-ignorance & denial, guys my age are quick to remind me that I might not be here today if I had been out in the 1980s, when so little was known about HIV. And that my generation was decimated by the plague that I missed.

    So I can never say I survived it, I merely slept through it. It's partly why, along with my partner's death, that I volunteer for so many things involved with HIV/AIDS help. But I never wrote any letters to him after he was gone, I'd rather be doing things in his memory.
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    Mar 03, 2013 9:43 PM GMT
    Very touching post Justin.. I live in FT Lauderdale and have experienced some dark times with friends because of this disease ( Mainly HIV)..

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    Mar 04, 2013 9:02 AM GMT
    In fact as I recall it well, as the "Gay Plague Era". I was also working for the gay community, and lost countless mates. I also well recall many a gay and bi men acting recklessly and irresponsible too, and endangering life, giving many a slow undignified ending, to what may of been a promising future. Well knowing they were infected with the HIV virus, but sadly put the wants of their dick before that of human life; so many young lives just gone; a gun to the head during that era would of been kinder, for the way we were treated, even those of us who were HIV-. I not only survived that era, as well the 1970s. But also survived people going out of their way too infect I, out of bitterness, and a number of other reasions. I had a sexual relations ship with a guy over many years, who led one to believe that he was HIV-, when in fact, he was HIV+. I survived and he did not. Yet one is also hated by being truthful about this era too. But I am not going to let the truth die with time.

    I myself have survived to live long enough to have become middle aged. but from what I seen, and witnessed first hand, as well endured and survived. Something was killed, murded if you like from with in, as I have never been the same; but I have thrived.
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    Mar 04, 2013 9:10 AM GMT
    tru_blu_aussie saidIn fact as I recall it well, as the "Gay Plague Era". I was also working for the gay community, and lost countless mates. I also well recall many a gay and bi men acting recklessly irresponsible too, and endangering life. Well knowing they were infected with the HIV virus, but sadly put the wants of their dick before that of human life; so many young lives just gone; a gun to the head during that era would of been kinder, for the way we were treated. I not only survived that ear, as well the 1970s. But also survived people going out of their way too infect I, out of bitterness, and a number of other reasions; yet I am also hated by being truthful about this era too. But I am not going to let the truth die with time.


    Jeebus, could you manage a gramatically comprehensible post at some point? You've been talking to the wallabies too much ... their patois isn't exactly English.
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    Mar 04, 2013 9:12 AM GMT
    Good news is that Melbourne Australia, researchers have made a breakthrough in the search for an AIDS cure. A team at the Alfred hospital have uncovered HIV's genetic hiding place and found a drug able to wake it up so that it can be destroyed. The results will be presented at the worlds leading experts in the US today.

    To think nurses at the Alfred hospital was to lock it's doors during the gay Plague Era, to prevent a man infected with the HIV viruses and dying of AIDS from entering, out of fear.
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    Mar 04, 2013 10:25 AM GMT
    I lost a lot of friends - heroes to me - in SF and think about them daily. Thank u for your post. Jokes on the subject are nothing more than ignorance from those who were blessed not to have had to experience those days.
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    Mar 05, 2013 2:59 AM GMT
    LeftofCenterus saidI lost a lot of friends - heroes to me - in SF and think about them daily. Thank u for your post. Jokes on the subject are nothing more than ignorance from those who were blessed not to have had to experience those days.


    icon_idea.gif
  • Stephan

    Posts: 407

    Mar 05, 2013 3:11 AM GMT
    I too lived during that time period, and it was horrible and sad many times.

    I remember always being in fear of whom had it and what if it would happen to me. I never slept around and was spared the grief and sorrows of many. I was overjoyed that I was coming out, but disappointed that I was coming out an era of gloom. AIDS had not been truely established or controled with drugs at the time of the early 80's. This is what scared me and was called the Gay Plague or the Gay Kiss of Death.

    I lost many dear friends to me and cannot count how many, but I will never forget them or their wonderful spirits of life they left for me to remember by.

    Yes, It is something not to laugh or joke off, because the horrible thing is still among US.

    Please, becareful and Kindful of others~

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    Mar 05, 2013 3:13 AM GMT
    If the (lack) of response posts are any indication, the Y generation doesn't care. (no surprises there)
  • bradsmith

    Posts: 175

    Mar 05, 2013 3:18 AM GMT
    Well, I have to note that Diseased Pariah News helped me through some of the darkest days...actually years...

    http://www.diseasedpariahnews.com/
  • conservativej...

    Posts: 2465

    Mar 05, 2013 3:20 AM GMT
    They number in the dozens, all souls passed along.
    Taking a piece of us with them, may we all be strong.
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    Mar 05, 2013 3:25 AM GMT
    I attribute my survival to being a little prudish when I was young. And pure dumb luck.

    I still grieve the friends and lovers I lost.
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    Mar 05, 2013 3:40 AM GMT
    justin_pal said
    So . . . never, ever joke about AIDS.


    You're right to say that AIDS is terrible, awful, horrific. Anyone who has lost anyone they were very close to for any reason understands grief, and that emotion must be multiplied by death happening to many people, at once, for most who experienced it with few support mechanisms, and little understanding what was going on.

    Of course those who didn't live through it can't fully understand it, and perhaps noone can. A little glimpse is possible by seeing the AIDS quilt, which I remember as I walked around it laid out on the national mall last summer caused me to cry as I saw the awful waste of life... the ages of so many of the dead younger than my own.

    But ultimately, with such a tragedy, so great a loss, how are we to comprehend it? I respectfully, gently, in the understanding that you're unlikely to agree, suggest that humor—and there are strong cultural differences in this—can help some people to cope, to redeem, to educate, to mitigate. And as such, though I think some casual jokes about AIDS ought to be deplored, I don't think I can fully agree with an absolute ban.

    I remember that, when my own father was taken from me a few years ago, that humor was the only way I could cope. The taboo about death has itself a terrible power over us all, and only way to break it is to talk about it, and sometimes, where conventional words are not enough, to pierce its power with something funny.

    There's a note of what I mean in the candy piles and curtains of Felix Gonzales Torres, who himself died of AIDS; his art is about the crisis. The works have a strong conceptual component [people eating the sweets], an aesthetic component [the color fields], a deeply personal component [the works are about and addressed to his dead lover], but also a wry, a dark, an exhausted and knowing humor. And in all that a certain immortality:

    sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.
    Solve metus; feret haec aliquam tibi fama salutem
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    Mar 06, 2013 8:55 PM GMT
    I think those of us who were having sex in the 1970s and are still alive today, and HIV-, belong to something unique . We certainly are survives, and would be a minority group, with a unique place in history.
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    Mar 06, 2013 9:10 PM GMT
    nevz saidIf the (lack) of response posts are any indication, the Y generation doesn't care. (no surprises there)


    And it's shocking the number who are willing to bareback. I guess they think they just need to take a pill if they contract the virus.
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    Mar 07, 2013 9:18 AM GMT
    _Tom saidI was extremely promiscuous in Chicago from the summer of 1977 for a number of years thereafter and remain HIV-, presumably because I was only having oral sex and midwestern cities had lower infection rates.

    I mourn the loss of so many of the men I remember from those years. In my mind's eye they will always be young, beautiful, and dancing at the Bistro. I think the Holocaust of AIDS is like the French Revolution in that if you were born after it started you can't fully comprehend how sweet life could be before it began.


    The Holocaust of Aids is like the French Revolution; well said, I hope you will not mind if I use that in my story.

    OMG how I remember well how sweet life was before it all started. I had moved to the city, off a farm to get work, due to drought. I was very popular, being a young lad from the bush, with a big white smile, big shoulder, chest arms and calves to die for. I never had to make the moves it all come to me, and working on the gay scene, as that was the first job I got, the offers were endless; and it was all about free love too. Then one day David Bradford come to our work place to take bloods, from our clientele, to check for things like VD, and one day he was to inform us something was going down in America, and no one wanted to talk about it. Then about a year latter, it hit the media and the whole world as we knew it, just turned up side down. First we had GRIDS, and the Gay Plague Era was on, and here I am 30 years latter, to tell the tale.

    The Gay venue I was to work at the beginning of the 1980s, was there until only a few years ago. Now the Coptic Church own it. All those young men now gone, who got infected on that site, and now it's holy ground.
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    Mar 08, 2013 3:35 AM GMT
    I lost my first love to aids back in the 90s. It's funny how fast some friends went back then. Luckily I have a few that are still alive and +