Bil Browning

Do you know someone who died of AIDS?

Filed By Bil Browning | August 08, 2009 2:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living

Note from Bil: The comment thread on this post is simply beautiful. I bumped it back up to the top so more Projectors could see it and participate over the weekend.

I finally got around to reading The Advocate's take on Obama's presidency and LGBT rights this morning. While it's a good enough article chock-full of reasons why our community is angry at the aids03.jpgObama administration, the part about Larry Kramer and the passion of our activism really resonated with me.

One paragraph really made me wonder though...

Our progress is measured by the generation gaps that fracture the movement. There is a gap between the ACT UP cohort and the daughters and sons of Will & Grace (who, having escaped the worst of the plague, don't share their elders' righteous anger except when they try) -- and another between the Will & Grace generation and the Facebook generation (most of whom don't know a single person who has died of AIDS).

Do you know someone who died of AIDS? I'm not talking about your long-lost 2nd cousin twice removed that died when you were four, but a personal friend, close family member, partner, etc. Tell us your age and where you live too; I think where you live in the country will also have a large effect on the results. I'll be interested to see the responses.

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I'm 50 and live in Washington, D.C. I do not think that there is a gay man in America around my age, who lived in a major city in the 1980's who does not remember at least dozen friends who died of AIDS. The plague became known just a few years after Harvey Milk was killed. Depression and fear hit hard. We did not have gay rights laws except in a very few locales. The right wing fundamentalists designated AIDS the disease of shame, and launched huge campaigns against finding treatments, cures, or information on how it is spread. They opposed sex ed in schools and AIDS information as promoting the gay agenda.
Each time you heard of someone else coming down with AIDS, you wondered how long until they lost their job, their health insurance,how long until it might hit you. This was a period when there wasn't alot of "sex" in homosexual. When you didn't see a familiar face for a few months, you figured he was home sick or already dead.
My partner's cousin and many friends, acquaintances, friendly faces in the neighborhood all died from the disease. My most recent friend lost to the disease died 26 months ago, after 17 years of treatment. He was a famous lawyer in Chicago. Our cousin lived with us for a year before he died. We had to figure out how to pay for AZT. Health insurers called all the treatments "experimental". Thank God for the Whitman-Walker Clinic in D.C. We still have friends who are on their treatment regimes for almost 20 years now, wondering how long it will last.
Some people spoke of us in hushed voices that we were harboring a public hazard, when our cousin lived with us, obviously so ill. Others were there with him, and with us, every step of the way. The disease and the negative reaction from much of society - Reagan's do nothing policy, politicians scared to touch the issue, the initial silence of the churches, the attacks by the fundamentalists, all contributed to politicizing many of us. It had become a life and death issue. We knew that Larry Kramer was right, silence = death. Gay Pride was more important than ever. We could not rest until we had full equality in society. This is why many of us rage at homophobia where ever we find it. Whether in "Bruno" or with a politician.
The loved ones we lost deserve nothing less, in their memories.

No, I don't know anyone personally who has died of AIDS. Although, to be fair, I haven't really had anyone close to me die. The prospect of that happening terrifies me.

I'm 60 and I lost several friends from HIV/AIDS. I'm in Chicago.

I'm 31, so I guess I'd be "Will and Grace" rather than "Facebook" generation.

I've had two friends from high school test positive. One died from a non-HIV related drug overdose. The other is doing fine. One friend in college also tested positive and is doing fine.

I've known people who have been positive for decades so I can't say it has affected me in the same way it has for those even just 10 years older than myself.

I am 54 and I was the first person to offer pro bono bodywork and healing touch to people with AIDS in Spokane WA in the late 80's. I tried involving other members of my profession, and at that time, they all refused. This was when the ignorance and fear of AIDS was so great that hospital workers wouldn't even enter patients rooms without full gowns, gloves, masks, booties. It was common for a person's meals to be delivered by sliding them through the door from the hallway, leaving family and friends to pick them up off the floor and bring them to the bedside. In the beginning, I was asked many times if I wasn't afraid to touch "those people" with my bare hands and accused of being irresponsible toward my family and child for treating people in my home office, sharing my bathroom and dishes, etc. I think I have taken for granted that everyone in our community knows what it was like in those days.

I had lived a kind of situationally separatist life, was a rural land dyke before coming to Spokane, I hadn't known many gay men, apart from my brother and a few neighbors. In the intimacy of illness, I became close with several of the many I treated, was present with them through their deaths, and led some of their memorial ceremonies. These were all young men (and a few women, as the years wore on) of my own generation. I thought I had seen the gamut of family cruelty and depravity, having worked primarily with survivors of sexual abuse, but one memory is particularly vivid after all these years.

An upper duplex apartment in August, airless and hot in spite of fans going full bore in every room. Bringing my dear friend Robert back home to die. The tragic comedy of the transport workers trying to bring his too wide, too long stretcher up the narrow stairs and around a sharp corner without tipping him off of it, while he moaned, emaciated, diapered, dehydrated, dying, barely conscious.

And then a three day death vigil. Estranged family coming from out of town. Father refusing to leave their motorhome and come inside until the last moments, angry, afraid, unable to deal with his emotions. Mother, sister and brother inside, ignoring him lying there, dissing his lover, getting drunk and packing up, discarding, and arguing over his possessions. Unbelievably, they sat on the end of his bed and tore apart his beloved photo albums, which he had so prized. He became agitated, and all his lover and I could do was calm him, reassure him, and direct his attention to better things. Because we had no legal right to be there! If we crossed them too strong they could kick us out. Somehow we got through it, I played him the same new age music tape he loved over and over all through that long last night, eventually his mom sobered up some and came and joined us at the bedside to be with him. Dad swallowed his stuff and came and told him he loved him. He had as good a death as could be, given the circumstances.

I always give credit to Robert for showing me manners. He was a sweet southern gentleman, but no fool and no pushover. I was a working class western dyke, in your face, and more prone to confrontation than was in my best interest at the time.

Multiply this one story by all the other people I treated, each one touched me as reciprocally as I ever touched them. And the common lesson I learned through all the pain and dying was about the centrality of love and family. For good or bad, I haven't been at a death yet where family, either of choice or biological, was unimportant.

I read the Advocate story and that quote rang out for me also. Maybe my generational experience is part of why I am so fed up about my marriage rights being denied and wanting prop 8 repeal on the 2010 ballot here in CA (where I live now). It is about family protection and kinship rights for me, more than hearts and flowers and romance. Those things are lovely, don't get me wrong, but at the end of the road I don't want any one else to face the death messes I've witnessed. I don't want injustice mucking up my death, or my wife's. I have been living my life around these barriers for too long, discrimination has stolen time, health, money, safety, and peace of mind from my family. Every day it goes on is a day too long. Thanks for asking these questions. Our stories need to be told.

Hi Wilowfire,

I was very moved by your story. I am a filmmaker and I am preparing a short film about the lesbian response to the 1980's AIDS crisis among gay men. I am looking for women with heartfelt stories that can share their story with the world about their significant and close friendship with a gay male friend, or relative, who passed away due to the AIDS virus in the 1980’s or 90’s.

If you would like to share your story please contact me via email. I'd love to hear from you.

Looking forward to your response.

Thank you very much,

Emmanuelle Antolin

Wow. What an interesting exercise. It should be an eye-opener.

I'm 51 years old, and I was living in NYC at the inception of the pandemic. I moved to suburban DC in the mid 80's. And yes, I've known many people who died from AIDS-related complications.

I knew people who were getting sick with it even before they were calling it GRID, the earliest designation before it was dubbed AIDS.

This is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but it got to the point that we'd lose track of who had died. That is, I'd read an obituary, be initially shocked by the news, and then think to myself, "wait - did I already know that?". Sometimes we couldn't remember if we had heard that some had been diagnosed or had died. The two events being so closely associated in both time and fate. A very sorry state of affairs, but that's how it was.

By the mid 90's, I figured that all of my friends from college were either long since dead, or if they were still alive, surely were HIV-. That didn't turn out to be true, either. I did have a friend from college who I found out was diagnosed at that time. It was at the dawn of the experimentation of the AIDS "cocktails", when no one knew if they would work, and the side effects were almost as bad as the disease. I found myself holding my breath again, re-living the early days of the crisis, in a type of PTSD reaction.

The good news is that the "cocktails" were successful for him, and he became the first person I knew for whom AIDS wasn't an immediate death sentence.

OTOH, by the turn of the century, I had met young trans people who were so self-loathing, they purposely tried (and succeeded) to become HIV+ while working the streets.

In a sense, that represents different generations of the AIDS crisis, as well.

Interesting question, which gets me thinking:
I think the issue needs to expand beyond and complicate the question of who knew PWAs who've died. While I think knowing friends who died in the crisis certainly makes the issue of AIDS resonate powerfully for activists, it's also important not to dismiss younger generations for not having that close a connection to the epidemic and to remember that they do feel passionately about a host of issues (and here, let me add, it's not Bil I'm pointing to, but the tendency of people like Kramer to keep harping on this one point).

It's also important to remember that a lot of people with such close connections to AIDS also have some pretty conservative politics vis-a-vis a host of other gay issue. Marriage, for a lot of people, is not a radical idea/cause. And AIDS, we tend to forget, has become a completely deradicalised issue, and ignored by some of the very people who once fought on the battle lines. Black men and women have some of the highest rates of HIV infection in this country, but we ignore those statistics even as AIDS days come and go every December.

A question I'd have have for people like Kramer: How many people do you know who are struggling with health care? Why and when did you decide that universal health care for all, regardless of marital status, was no longer an issue? How many people do you know who are unemployed and stand on the brink of homelessness and poverty, compounded by a lack of health care? And on, and on...My point here is simply that perhaps it's time we stopped asking the question about how many people we know who died of AIDS and instead ask: What do we know about the changing demographics and nature of AIDS today? And what do we know about the lives of people without health care?

My larger project and future posts take on this issue of personalisation at greater length, so I'm just putting in my two cents for now. But, overall: I think Kramer's rants are occasionally useful but, frankly, they are becoming less and less relevant over time.

As for the article itself: it begins, surprisingly, on a nuanced note, but Gross ends up making the same mistake that so many people make: Assuming that gay politics as defined by the gay mainstream is somehow represents a progressive/left agenda. Maybe, just maybe, we ought to consider the idea that a lot of people simply don't think that marriage and DADT are progressive causes at all. Is there really a movement? Or are we trying too hard to pretend that we can somehow steamroll people into believing that these causes somehow make up a movement?

Rick Sours | August 6, 2009 8:01 PM

Having lived in the Washington area in the
1980's, atleast 50-70% of the men I socially
with have died of AIDS. It is truely a surreal
era as I look back on that time frame. Saddly,
alot of younger members of the LGBT community
are not aware of what those years were like for
the LGBT community and in alot of cases do they
care. So many young people do not feel AIDS could
happen to them. AIDS does not discriminate.

Bil, I had some very close friends in the priesthood who died of AIDS. I miss them terribly. Their families never spoke of the real cause of their deaths. Their bishops were surprisingly supportive of them in their illnesses. Perhaps that is why I hold back on a wholesale condemnation of the Catholic Church. Because I know some private stuff. Their friends made panels that went into The Quilt. Those friends would call me from San Francisco when it was time for that final good bye before the morphine. I can barely speak of these things.

Joseph Kowalski | August 6, 2009 8:59 PM

I'm 57 years old and live in suburban Pittsburgh. Yes, I lost several close personal friends and one close family member to AIDS. However, the last one of these died a little over ten years ago now.

With the success of new drug cocktails, AIDS has become a more manageable disease with a longer life expectancy for most of those who have it, but some people have serious side effects to these drugs and their life isn't easy.

I'm 50, and I cared for a guy in Berkeley who died. I also knew the best dancer in the Universe at Trocadero who died real early. My best freind is a total butterfly, and he's seen a hundred people go.
There was really no reason for any of this after we learned the transmission method decades ago. But the community is still chock full of internalized homophobia and won't talk the simple steps to stop AIDS. I've been waiting for peer group pressure for some twenty five years. Still no luck.

I'm 22 and originally from Los Angeles. I haven't known anybody who died of AIDS. I have 2 close friends who are HIV+ but it's not really a part of our interactions. I know in case something comes up in terms of "hey, might wanna throw on some gloves before you bandage me up if I fall out of a tree." But... yeah.

His name was Eugene Prince Earle. He was one of the best damn camera assistants in Hollywood, wore bow ties and loved his boyfriend who cheated on him and exposed him to HIV. My daughter was a year old when he died in 1986, I was a newlywed,a yuppie dad, a film industry grunt, an alcoholic and deeply in denial about being Trans. To my own credit(only in retrospect)I hired him on a TV series job that took us to the North Coast of California after I knew he had the disease; I guess I just loved him. The new kids have no idea the kind of courage it took for their gay elders to stand up and make noise about this plague back then; Howdy Doody was in the White House and didn't give a rat's ass if gay people lived or died. Gay rage and courage made a huge difference in the end. The rest of us were scared irrationally shitless; I'd be a liar if I told you I didn't wash my hands furiously after visiting him in the hospital and watching him descend into madness as the disease crawled up his optic nerve and attacked his brain.
Damn it.

There was also Don Furneaux, actor, artist, friend.He was so happy he'd settled down after a mad life in the baths.

There was J.C Carr; brilliant artist and again, a good friend.He had beauftiful blue eyes.

Jimmy Crabe, the Cinematographer on "Rocky" and the original "Karate Kid". A sweet, smart, funny and well loved guy by the gruffest and seemingly homophobic of movie crews.

Damn it.

Kirk Lammert | August 7, 2009 1:15 AM

First the facts. I'm 46 and currently reside in Temple, TX. I've been with my current partner for 10+ years. However, my former partner I lost to AIDS in 1997. We were together for only 7 years. From the time he was diagnosed positive to his death was less than 5 years. Somehow to this day I remain negative and did deal with survivor guilt for a while. I can only hope that he's in a much better place now. Even at 46 I've been to too many funerals. The current generation see HIV/AIDS as a manageable disease, such as diabetes. After so much, I can't see that.

Kirk Lammert | August 7, 2009 1:22 AM

Something else... I'm part of a group that holds a semi-annual campout for PWAs. Each one gets bigger and bigger... the last being about 150. It's free for all PWA folks although a 25.00 donation is requested (but NOT required) from all others. It includes Friday dinner, Saturday all meals and Sunday breakfast as well as water/soda/tea/gatorade all weekend. Each campout we wonder who isn't going to be with us this time. We're still losing good people to this.

If anyone is interested in these campouts, please take a look at

I'm 26, I grew up in Miami and now live in New York, and I haven't known anyone who died of AIDS. But I still care passionately about queer issues.

His name was Eugene Prince Earle. He was one of the best damn camera assistants in Hollywood, wore bow ties and loved his boyfriend who cheated on him and exposed him to HIV. My daughter was a year old when he died in 1986, I was a newlywed,a yuppie dad, a film industry grunt, an alcoholic and deeply in denial about being Trans. To my own credit(only in retrospect)I hired him on a TV series job that took us to the North Coast of California after I knew he had the disease; I guess I just loved him. The new kids have no idea the kind of courage it took for their gay elders to stand up and make noise about this plague back then; Howdy Doody was in the White House and didn't give a rat's ass if gay people lived or died. Gay rage and courage made a huge difference in the end. The rest of us were scared irrationally shitless; I'd be a liar if I told you I didn't wash my hands furiously after visiting him in the hospital and watching him descend into madness as the disease crawled up his optic nerve and attacked his brain.
Damn it.

There was also Don Furneaux, actor, artist, friend.He was so happy he'd settled down after a mad life in the baths.

There was J.C Carr; brilliant artist and again, a good friend.He had beauftiful blue eyes.

Jimmy Crabe, the Cinematographer on "Rocky" and the original "Karate Kid". A sweet, smart, funny and well loved guy by the gruffest and seemingly homophobic of movie crews.

Damn it.


Thank you for bringing this subject up. Like a number of posters here, I belong to the, um, shall we say, slightly older generation that remembers the 80's poignantly. It was a time of independence from parents, Wham!, Tears for Fears and Erasure. It was a belief that we were invincible. Personally it was a time of hiding and closeting the true me. It was also the time of the "Gay man disease", although we didn't know exactly what or how it happened at first. Remember in 1987 there were 71,000 reported cases of AIDS and 40,000 deaths. I lost two close friends.

I'd worked in and out of Ohio, commuting every couple of months from my main office in the UK. I met Tony. A sharp Ohio State grad and band member and his partner. Tony eventually ended up working in my organization. Very shortly after that he told me his partner was sick, and within weeks had developed lesions, and shortly after died.

Tony however was one of those brave souls willing to try all sorts of 'trial' cocktails, via OSU, in the hopes of stopping HIV spreading. He was shunned at work during a required "off-site" when no one wanted to room with him, not because he was HIV+ - they didn't know,- but because he was gay. As his VP, I wanted to show others that Tony was good, and we roomed together. Over time he was getting thinner, and more gaunt. Questions and rumors were flying. I deferred to Tony as to what he wanted to say or do, as his work schedule had been accommodated to help his daily testing (t-cells) and medicines.

Tony, said lets explain everything. So, with the permission of my staff and other departments, we invited people to a lunch meeting. It wasn't mandatory, only optional. I talked for a while, then Tony, stories told, emotions shared, hearts and minds opened, and tears shed.

Tony lasted until 2001; a long time for someone living HIV+. We met up in New York where I had been working until 9/11. He was pale, so frail and so gaunt. He walked with a cane and his then partner helped him throughout the meal. I knew his time was close, and gave him a big hug when we parted ways. He died shortly after.

So. From a generational point of view. Some of us lived through the worst of HIV/AIDS. When knowledge was scarce, when the public was fearful of the "gay cancer" and thus gay men. The Will & Grace period allowed people to gain understanding about the disease and it's dangers, and how it was conveyed, the TV was full with news and hopes for a cure, along with the AIDS Quilt when it was last displayed in 1996. They were aware of it's spread amongst all ages and demographics. The Facebook age? Well if you look at statistics, cases of HIV are up in younger people, and I fear that they don't see the risks and therefore don't care as much as we may have once we had understanding in the mid- to late- 80' and early 90's. With the availability of drugs to prolong life, and unwillingness to be tested, we have a percentage of a generation walking around ambivalent about HIV/AIDS. That upsets me.

Personally I have since held the hands of dying patients of AIDS, and in the last 2 years joined the Board of AIDS Foundation Houston so as to keep awareness going and to remember Tony and his partners courageous life.

I'm 22, I live in New York, and no one I know has died of AIDS. I do know people who are HIV+. I don't think my distance from the early days of AIDS has made me a less passionate or confrontational queer activist.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 7, 2009 5:14 AM

I and my partner's closest friend ever was Richard Haas. Richard was a Vietnam vet who I met when he was a buyer for Wiebolt's department store in Chicago. He was honest, funny, a flirt and a man always looking for love, laughs and friendship.

He switched to my side of the world and became a manufacturer's rep in an adjacent, but not competitive field, so we routinely shared "shoptalk" and insights on problems with stores. He was a charming natural persuader who could call birds out of the trees.

We watched a lunar eclipse together in Chicago. We partied, cooked out and shared holidays together. We created our own Gay Family.

When he became ill we saw to his needs when his relationship broke up with his partner. His partner was also HIV positive and could not deal with the reality of Richards decline. I learned how to give IV drips, take Richard to doctor's appointments and "comfort" therapies. he stayed in our guest bedroom when his former lover needed a respite. I was the person who was sure to enforce his "do not resuscitate" standing order. When dementia came to him it was horrible to realize that if the nurse asked me to leave his room he would forget that I had been there when I returned. I left a picture of myself and my partner on his night stand so that he would always know that we had been there and would return.

He was never to feel alone.

At his funeral and after dozens of people I did not know told me how they considered Richard to be their closest friend. Where were they when he needed them? HIV victims became lepers among the Gay Community at that time in ways unimaginable today.

Bil ~
I hope you are not standing on some
kind of ceremony here, allowing others
to go first -- please don't wait to
post your own response.

As always, we value your experience,
perspective, considerable insight and

Pshaw, flattery will get you everywhere, Marc. ;)

I'm 36. I've always lived in Indiana. I've held a friend's head in my lap as he died while I stroked his hair. Both of my previous two longterm partners are HIV+. I started Indiana's only ACT UP chapter with one of them.

Interesting side note: After this post went up, a friend called and asked me if I was HIV+. I told him no and asked why he was asking. Based on my history of AIDS activism in the past combined with a couple of things I'd said over our ten years of friendship, he'd always thought I was positive. I found that interesting since the post had just gone live when he called.

Marla Stevens | August 7, 2009 11:59 AM

If you're referring to the Evansville chapter, it was not the only one.
-- Marla

Now, see Marla, this is why I keep harping on you to do some LGBT Indiana history posts.

Tell us about Indiana's other ACT UP chapter. I don't know anything about it! Did they do any actions?

Marla Stevens | August 7, 2009 6:59 AM

57yo lavender diaper baby & queer rights activist -- the question might be better put as 'Who didn't I lose?' The only person outside my peer milieu who could describe a comparable experience of death that I could relate to was my uncle who survived both the landing at Omaha Beach and the winter siege of the Battle of the Bulge.
Larry Kramer may be an arrogant, provincial jerk but at least he is so with cause and his analysis is far more right than not, unlike his biggest whiny critic in this thread.

I have known only one person personally, he was my partner's cousin. I am 38, he died two years ago at 37, we live in the SF bay area.

Many many many. Robert, 40 in Atlanta.

Nick shalosky | August 7, 2009 10:04 AM

21 years old, from Charleston sc. Although I have known many people with HIV and have heard terrible stories about HIV victims from my mother who is a nurse, I have never had anyone that I'm close to die from AIDS, and I find myself very lucky to be able to say that.

Too, too many. The one's that always touch my heart.

Felix Godinez
Mitch Underwood
Father Bob
The Prince (Applesauce & Porkchop's dad)
Werner Slade
Tall Paul
John Mungo (Always, John...)

Robert, 40, Atlanta

Becky Allison | August 7, 2009 10:35 AM

I grew up in the 1960s in the Mississippi Delta. It's been called "the most Southern place on Earth." Not a safe place to come out... One of my best friends, Tommy, was in denial about being gay. I sure as hell was in denial about being transsexual. So we went our separate ways after high school and the first time I saw Tommy again was at our 15 year high school reunion, which he attended with his partner. His courage at facing a hostile Mississippi crowd was an inspiration to me to come out and get on with my life and transition.
Tommy was a flight attendant on international flights. His square on the quilt shows the airport codes of cities worldwide where he worked. He became ill in the 1980s and passed away in 1989. One of my greatest regrets is that Tommy and Becky never really got to know each other.

I am 42 years old and have known at least five people who died of AIDS related causes. One died while living at Parkview Manor. I had dated him for a year and later found out he was HIV+ and visited him with his new partner. I saw him again and he did not know who I was. It was sad and was my goodbye to him.
I also knew Chris Gonzales and Jeff Werner through IYG which they helped to start and run while I was a member from 1989-1992. I truly loved those guys and was so saddened when Chris died and we all heard from what. He was a tireless fighter for gay rights and for GLBT youth who I thank so much for all the good I got from IYG. Jeff took over the group's leadership and ran it for awhile. He was on some drugs later that really distorted his looks and when I ran into him after being away from the group for some time, I did not recognize his beautiful face. But he said hello and who he was and I was so glad to see him but felt awful to not have recognized him. I so hoped he would beat the disease but he too died not long after that. What a loss to our Indy community when those two passed on. I miss them still.
The other one I can think of was Pedro Zamora who I met with the youth group on our trip to New Orleans in 1991 for the Gay and Lesbian Health Conference. He, of course, later went on to gain fame on The Real World. I did not really know him, just met him. But we all know the difference he was able to make in his short time on this planet. Again, I wish he would have survived. He was very nice when we met and interacted so well with all of us. I still have pictures and video from that trip and him.
The horrid part is that of those I know for sure who had AIDS, none of them survived long enough for the drugs that came later. What a loss!!! That is why today I am so aghast that some people choose to put themselves at risk so willingly. And some are in my age group so they should know better. I shake my head in wonder.
And I think of Allen, Chris, Jeff, Pedro and Jamie, another friend I just thought of that to my knowledge also died from AIDS in his twenties.

Chris Gonzales was a treasure that Indianapolis should have guarded more closely. He's still remembered and deeply missed.

I am 47 and was in the Marines during the 80's and early 90's when alot of folks were dying. It also affected the gays and lesbians in the military and they had the added battle of being discharged or taken off duty after they tested positive. One of my best friends John Conte who was a Commander in the Navy died of AIDS while I was overseas and I was not able to attend his funeral. I have very fond memories of my military buddies that were postive and died.
I know some Coast Guard, Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines who lost their lives to AIDS during this time while in the military and how they had to deal with peoples attitudes, (homophobia in the military) and the changes that it brought in their lives. It was very difficult for them. Some even ended up on the AIDS Quilt that was displayed in Washington DC.
To all of those Souls, may they never be forgotten. God Bless them all.

I'm 51 and at the time this shit all started i lived in Palm Springs. i have no idea how many people i've known with AIDS and attended their funerals. My uncle died of aids in 1987, my cousin passed in '92. i've read this thread and started remembering and by the time i got to the bottom i was crying. damnit.

You should be the one getting the notifications of the new comments. I've been weeping off and on since I published it as I read each comment from beginning to end.

But at the same time, it's also made me smile to see so many people taking the short bit of time needed to leave a small remembrance of their friends or family members. There may be quite a bit of in-fighting and general nastiness in our movement at time, but this really shows our heart.

I have to admit, I've been reading this thread on my phone in front of my family. And I've been near tears. I can't really explain it to them. They're aware of my LGBT activism, but don't get it. That's why I love the gay community so much. I know there are so many others reading this, and its resonating. Its hitting them right in their hearts.

The only thing that makes them tear up is "The Passion of the Christ." Our friends have real passion! This has been a very cathartic post, Bil, thank you! I think we need these to rekindle the flame, remind us how much we love one another!

I'm 46 and lived in both the SF Bay Area and NYC in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. I was active in ACT UP/NY in the late 80s and early 90s, and worked in an AIDS services agency in NYC, so I've known many people who died of AIDS, including a couple of people in that picture up there. I also know a bunch of folks who are HIV+ who continue to survive and thrive.

I don't really get Kramer's point. Is he saying that people who don't know someone who died of AIDS can't be passionate about marriage? That doesn't make sense to me - they're unrelated issues. Maybe it was just underreported, but I don't remember hearing about marriage activism being all that big a deal for ACT-UP.

LGBT people are downright terrible at generational analysis, and nothing coherent ever comes from it. Let's see, in this article younger people were more assimilationist and therefore saw marriage and other issues related to that as more important, we were also more likely to be in favor of Obama and worry about rocking the boat, we're also more likely to just no care because we didn't know anyone who died of AIDS. Why not just say that we don't care about anything besides going to the club, taking drugs, and getting laid? At least those observations are more popular.

Anyway, the answer is no. I know a few who are living with HIV, but no on who has died from it.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 8, 2009 1:47 AM

I get Kramer, it is a call for the same unity of purpose a much smaller Gay Rights Movement had thirty plus years ago. It is certainly not that we were smarter, but we were all willing to compromise with one another over greater matters than the minutia used by our enemies to keep fracturing our true strength.

If a K street lobbyist (or several of them) can organize folks to go and protest national health care and town meetings across the disUnited States why are we not as effective?

tobyhannabill | August 7, 2009 11:41 AM

I turned 50 on August 4th. I purchased my home in Wilkes Barre, PA on August 1st, 2007 as a gift to myself. Before that I leved in NYC, born and raised for 48 years.
At 30 I broke up with my cheating boyfriend. Two weeks later he was diagnosed and passed away a year later. I remained his friend and looked after him although we no longer had a love relationship. I lived in fear for the entire year waiting for my test results again and again and watching as the disease ravaged his body. I kept thinking I was next. Luckily and miraculously I dodged that bullet.
At age 40 my best friend from childhood was diagnosed. I was a volunteer with the GMHC and came in contact with many who were HIV+. A few years later he passed after receiving the most horrible health care from the VA. They would give him 6 months worth of meds and send him home with no follow up. The meds did not work for him and I watched him slowly and painfully pass away.
I am now in college in PA. I helped co-found a Health Awareness Club on my community college campus. I am the guy in front of the bookstore handing out condoms and information. I am getting a degree in Human Services with the intention of continuing on and getting a BSW (Social Work). I volunteer with the local Aids Counsel and help to put together HIV/AIDS Awareness days at churches and venues here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Although a positive diagnosis is no longer the death sentence it once was it is still a major problem. Many people I know who are now well enough to work and would like to be contributing members of society are held back from doing so because to take a job means that you lose your health care and they fear that their new employer will not insure their condition or that they will be stigmatized if anyone finds out. It's a shame that people are treated this was this many years later.
The blight of HIV/AIDS has effected my life and changed the course of it.

I'm over 70, and I lived in the Los Angeles area in the late 70's and 80's. I knew at least five co-workers who died of AIDS, plus another five to ten others.

I wonder if the younger generation knows what a devastating disease AIDS is. While HIV can be controlled now with medicine, it continues to take a toll on the gay community. Maybe we still need to get the message out there about safe sex.

We know. Or, a lot of us do at least. We can't know first hand, at least not en masse, as the generation before us did, but I don't think that that is a bad thing. But for those of us who are youth activists we've read the books, watched the movies, attended lectures, and yes, known people with HIV/AIDS. Many of us have had friends test positive, or waited with friends for results. We know it's a bad thing. Just because we haven't seen it ravage our friends and lovers doesn't mean we don't know.

A. J. Lopp | August 7, 2009 1:08 PM

I'll turn 55 next month. Between hearing about 1970's Indiana college friends and living in L.A. during the 80's and 90's, I can only use one word:


Kelly McCann | August 7, 2009 2:58 PM

I'm 48 years old so I am part of the generation who lived through the 80's and early 90's when HIV/AIDS was an unmanageable illness that caused great disability and often led to death.

Over the years, I have seen scores of acquaintences succumb due to AIDS-related causes, and I've lost four close friends to the illness. However, it was the death of my best friend and soulmate, Robert Heugatter, that was the most significant for me.

We met when we were 15, and developed a fast friendship that grew to be a very close and loving bond. Robert became the gay brother I never had, and I was his lesbian sister.

Robert was a sweet and handsome (Patrick Swayze look-alike) guy who began to experience the ravages of AIDS at an early age. He was just 23 years old when he began to experience unusual illnesses. The first was Bell's Palsy and eventually, Robert developed the telltale lesions of Kaposi's Sarcoma. But it was CMV of the lungs that eventually caused his death on December 4, 1990, at the age of 29.

I helped to care for him during his illnesses, and I was fortunate enough to spend six hours with him the day before he died. We talked about the old times, shared good memories, and he asked me to deliver his possessions to various friends and family members. We hugged, we said, "I love you", and then, heartbreakingly, we told each other goodbye.

He died the next morning. And despite the fact he's been gone for almost 19 years, I think about Robert quite often and I keep a picture of him in my office. He is the reason I got into the HIV services field and he still serves as my inspiration.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity to share my experiences.

Kelly McCann
Chief Executive Officer
AIDS Foundation Houston

Deborah Heugatter | January 9, 2010 9:46 AM

Hi Kelly,

I am Deborah and Robert is my cousin. I miss him. I was 21 when he died and I am in my 40s now and still miss and think of him often. Out of all of my cousins, I love and respect him the most. Thank you for your kind words about him.

Deborah Heugatter Day
Tax Advisor

I'm 30- and know plenty of people who are HIV+. We talk about it sometimes.

One of my friends who was HIV+ recently died, but of cancer, and at the age of 35. We miss you Dan. There was some perverseness to his death that he thought he would die of AIDS, and then cancer took him out.

I feel lucky to not have been part of the generation that saw so many die so young. Although when I came out to my mom, the first thing she said to me, is you're going to get AIDS and die.

That still stings 10 years later.

For those who were part of the generation who lost so many- what did it do to your psyche? How did / do you grieve?

I am 48. I graduated from UT-Austin in 1984 and moved to Washington, D.C. for grad school. I joined Dignity/Washington and through that organization made several friends who died of HIV/AIDS. I remember their quilts at the Names Project displays.

My first partner was a volunteer with the Hospice of Northern Virginia. He was also a volunteer AIDS "buddy" in the DC/NoVa area, and he taught me a lot about the disease. We both joined a longitudinal study of 1000s of gay men through Johns Hopkins (also at other locations) to study the health of gay men, both positive and negative, over a period of many years, still ongoing, seeing who developed HIV, who didn't, what was the progress of the disease, what treatments had what effect, etc, etc. I moved away in the mid-1990s to California and no longer participate.

I look back at it not so much with any sense of anger -- I was never impressed with the guys who spilled pigs' blood on the steps on NIH and thought they were having any concrete effect on the world -- but more from a sense of fear and love. Fear, because fear of the disease was an omnipresent overbearing reality. See a play like Jerker or a movie like Jeffrey and you'll start to scratch the surface of it. Love, because it brought many of us to put self aside and devote ourselves to caring for others. Not just a hold-hands-and-sing-Kumbaya caring, but concretely, sitting with the sick, changing their cat boxes (or their diapers), bringing them food, rides to and from the doctor. Simply being there, as a human presence.

Do you call that activism? I call it service.

My current partner is a long-term HIV survivor and a Type 1 diabetic since childhood. We live near Houston now. As I type this, he is very ill, very weak, sleeping beside me. Yesterday he fell twice. Once I had to call EMS for assistance. He's a "frequent flyer" at the hospital, having last been inpatient in May. He'll be in again soon, I think.

For me, my "activism" is the act of keeping him alive. I wake him up to check his blood glucose. I cook him meals. The last few days, with him unable to walk, I bring him a urinal, a bedpan. I clean. This is more real to me than anyone's rage, anyone's march, or anyone's Twitter feed. This is an act of love.

*hugs* Let us know if there's anything we can do to help. We might all be long distance, but I think I can speak for all of us in this thread when I say as the caregiver you have to have your own support.

Thank you, I appreciate your support very much. He is a bit better today and was able to use the walker and get to the bathroom. We take it one day at a time.

A side note, he is an Indiana native, born in Rushville. He lived in Indianapolis for several years, worked at Talbott Street and at the Canterbury Hotel. His elderly parents currently are up north in Warsaw. Although he left Indiana years ago, I really appreciate being able to read Bilerico and let him know what's happening back home. Keep up the good work!

You're right -- that is the most beautiful activism there is -- love.

And Bil is right also -- hugs. Gentle, and full, even though we are all so very far away.

Bil: I'm 72 years old and lived in San Francisco during the sexual revolution. 1960's and 70's. It was a very exciting time sexually. We went from not being able to even shake hands in a bar to bathhouses and back rooms where sex was available to everyone. We would go out drinking and end up at the bath house in a dark room having a sexual orgy. Very few wanted a permanant relationship. It was very exciting then and no one knew of AIDS. I first heard of AIDS in the early 80's and I was then in my 30's. Everyone said, it couldn't happen to me. That only happens to the "fisters", the leather queens and to those who used poppers. Friends of friends were diagnosed, then friends, then close friends. It was a terrifying time. We all wondered who is next. All of us had been promiscuous and expected to be the next one. I lost so many close friends, friends I counted on to be here in my last years. I often wonder how I escaped the plague. Out of a large group that were close, there are two of us left. Left to wonder why not me? Do I know anyone who died of AIDS? Check "The Quils". You will see the names of many of those friends.

Kevin Jochems | August 8, 2009 12:26 AM

Hi all and whoever reads this. I clicked on this hours ago and it has taken a while for me to be able to reply, as the obvious answer is YES- I just wasn't sure what I wanted to say about my friends or those experiences.

I am 47 and have lived in the DC area for 10 years, but the years when I lost people to AIDS I was living in Durham, NC. North Carolina is where i was born and raised. There was a week back in 1994, (ironically exactly 15 years from this week) when I lost two, very close friends within days of each other. One- I was a buddy for (3 years) and the other was a friend that I had known as long. The guy I was a buddy for- brought me into his group as a friend and didn't want anyone to know the nature of our relationship. He was smart, funny, buff and beautiful and yet even with his degree from Duke and a very successful life, couldn't tell his parents (his Dad was a Methodist minister) he was gay or had HIV until his last year of life. The other was a transplant from DC and NJ who spent his last 6 weeks of life (if you can call it that)in a coma. I didn't fight the fight in ACT-UP (NC at the time- Jesse Helms still ruled) even though Burroughs Welcome was making AZT and selling it for 10K for 6 months treatment, minutes away from me in Research Triangle Park. I was in my late 20's and early 30's during this time of my life and didn't really understand how I never contracted the virus myself- as I was very active sexually and not exactly safe myself until 1985.

Living in Durham I got involved in the community that was serving the people who did have HIV. The stories I could tell. Black men disowned by their families and dying alone(I once went to a funeral that NO family member attended), white guys whose families NEVER- even in death, acknowledged their sons sexuality. Lesbians who didn't have the same risk of loss- but who gave SO much to make other folks' last few days, months and years have some semblance of normalcy.
Straight people who gave time effort and energy because the cared.

It was a very mixed bag- on the one hand my generation of gay men was dying from having sex and our government had very little concern or sense of urgency about the matter. On the other hand I saw my community (NOT one centered around bars) coming together and showing up- even when it was painful and difficult to do so. It was truly a big tent- especially where HIV and AIDS were concerned and in some ways we have never come together as well since.

Don't get me wrong- I would never want to go back to those years- but this gulf between my generation and the ones that have come since have NO idea what it was like then. I am SO happy that people can come out in high school now and it is in many places NO big deal. Still- when I think about the proliferation of party and play today or crystal meth in general and bareback sex, or stories of guys who try to get HIV- I just don't get it. I tried hard back then in the 80's and 90's not to be judgemental about how or why people contracted HIV because I was no saint myself- it could have easily been me. However- I really feel that the larger gay community that exists today- so happy to be rid of HIV and AIDS as a death sentence and as the prevalent issue that defined us then- has done a horrible job relaying our stories and conveying the tenor of the times back then.

Yet, in some ways through the struggles of those times I found myself and our community and a support system that remains today. I am very thankful for that. I can only hope that the same has happened for others and that the generations behind us learn from our successes and mistakes.
Some days I am doubtful- on others I see enormous hope.

I am 60, have lived in Connecticut all my life, and I worked with a young man named Lou Landino at a bank. He died from AIDS, and this had to be in the early 70s. He was openly gay in a time and place where it simply wasn't accepted. Amazingly enough, I learned within a few years that many of my co-workers were gay as well. I had been brought up as straight and I was convinced that was that.
Lou and I had many conversations in the time I knew him - I remember him talking about his "boyfriend" at that time, and when he became ill, we were in contact. I now regret that I didn't get closer to Lou back then; he and I were friendly but in a superficial kind of way.
Knowing guys like Lou made it far easier for me to accept myself as gay when that time arose. It just took too long, and that meant I could never thank him for letting me know that being gay was really okay.

So, so many, it’s beyond belief.

I’m in my late 50s, have lived in New York City most of my life, and never really considered myself promiscuous. But when the news became clear that something was happening and no one had any idea what it really was, I quickly became more cautious, and even had a short period of "respite" while caring for some of those strangers who early on needed help – some of whom were without the closeness of family and friends, some suddenly homeless, or someone alone, homeless and just too young to be true.

It was truly heartbreaking. There were so many lovely men.

And then it was somebody’s lover, trick or friend. And then it was one of my friends. And very soon it was one of the guys I had been intimate with, and then another, and another. And then my lover, and then it was my turn.

Over the years, I have been on several courses of antivirals, and have somehow outlived all the horrors of this disease, side effects of meds, navigating up and down the varied and nefarious health care conglomerates, and sometimes the despair of being a long-term survivor.

Yet, of course, I’m happy to be alive, to still have the opportunity to fix everything, and to become acquainted with this profound and indescribably mysterious love that persists between family, friends, and mostly strangers (just like me) who us city folk encounter at all hours of the day and night.

That’s life.

With all of my love, in memory of Eddie, José, Red, David, Gorge, Kevin . . .

I am 56 and my partner is 57. We have been together for 30 years. We never dreamed of having a gay marriage, because in those days the idea of having equal rights was nothing more than a far-off dream.

We lost 18 of our friends to AIDS, essentially eliminating our entire circle of acquaintances who had become our family. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don't think of at least one or a few of them. They were real people - artists, designers, musicians, hair burners.

Survivor guilt is a real thing. Some, like us, managed to avoid "the plague," but at a great cost. Being gay, for us, lost the whole gay connotation. We just continued to exist telling each other, "It's you and me against the world." It's not like our world ended, but it certainly changed dramatically.

It's not easy for an older couple to make new friends. People these days seem suspicious of any attempt to try to be close, and eventually just shut off contact for fear of facing their own mortality. We continue to lose friends and family, but now it's mostly just because of age-related illnesses.

I am 59. I lived in Boston in the 1980s and a number of friends and co-workers that I was close to died of AIDS.
After moving to DC in the 1990s I also became a friend to a number of people who died of the syndrome. The non-action of the Reagan government on AIDS was what brought me back to political involvement after my Vietnam War days. I attended ACT UP, Queer Nation and Names events.
I also supported candidate Obama (while living with a Hillary-supporting partner -- we survived that crisis) and am now disappointed in his lack of actions, followed by attempted appeasement through limited federal benefits to partners of LGBT government employees and a short gathering at the WH.

Anthony in Nashville | August 8, 2009 9:07 AM

I'm 34 and my best childhood friend died of AIDS 2 years ago. We met in the sixth grade and the funny thing was it was many years until we came out to each other although I suspect we knew it from the day we met. I was living out of state when I found out he was HIV positive; I was stunned.

He refused to take meds for several years. I was never able to find out if that was a financial decision or if he just didn't like the side effects.

He eventually resumed treatment and seemed to find peace with his situation. Being with him in the hospital as things began to go downhill really opened my eyes as to what HIV/AIDS does to people.

When things got really bad, he went to a hospice. Our conversations were brief, he didn't have the energy or mental focus to maintain a prolonged chat. I still feel guilty because he died before I had a chance to see him one last time.

I've also known other acquaintances who died of AIDS, but those did not have me as hard. Today I know at least five people who are HIV positive, including some who were diagnosed over 20 years ago.

I find the comments by the person named Yasmin Nair to be offensive and obnoxious. This person so hates gay white men that they cannot even allow one post to be about AIDS and gay men. Every post by this person is the same. Who is she? Why is a straight woman being given so much air time when her opinions are so juvenile and self-serving. Also the same comments about the transperson Alex Blaze who made similar comments to Nair. This person will do anything to smear the memory of gay men who died of AIDS by dismissing the issue as white gay middle class Larry Kramer shit. Shame of you to allow these two insensitive idiots to hold their platforms in what is purported to be a gay inclusive blog.

I was originally going to simply TOS this comment for violating our comment policy by attacking other Projectors personally rather than staying on topic. I'm stunned that someone would mar such a beautiful thread with such ugliness. Instead, I think I'll respond:

It really disturbs me that this level of vitriol would show up on this thread.

1) You refer to Yasmin as "this person" in an attempt to take away her identity. You clearly know she's a woman so why try to erase that?

2) You obviously don't know either of the people you are attacking very well. Yasmin isn't straight and Alex isn't trans. Both modifiers, however, are used as an attack against them - to make them less worthy of attention or respect.

3) "A gay inclusive blog" - Is that one that excludes straight people, women and trans folk? If so, that's not very inclusive is it? There are a ton of "gay-only" sites out there; they are a dime a dozen. Our diversity is our biggest strength.

4) Both Yasmin and Alex's comments were on topic. The article's quip was about the generational gap in knowing someone who's died of AIDS. Both used the opportunity to expand on that and bring in how poverty levels and race have also become determining factors and how the fight has changed in recent years.

5) Please, if all you can do is attack other Projectors, be an "insensitive idiot" elsewhere. The big kids are having a serious discussion and sharing something wonderful, touching and beautiful. Don't disrespect that with this crap.

This is one of best pieces on this blog in a long time. While I certainly do not condone the insults by David, I do join him in feeling frustration at having this threadjacked by Ms. Nair.

Bil, I disagree that Ms. Nair was on topic. She completely blew past the questions you proposed (“the issue needs to expand beyond and complicate the question of who knew PWAs who've died”) and forces her own thoughts on the issue. Of course, Ms. Nair’s thoughts always come back to chastising those who favor marriage initiatives. We should expect this from a professional scold like Ms. Nair, but it is still frustrating to have to read it amid the beauty in this thread.

Sometimes a remembrance thread should remain just that. The problem is, she will probably cackle knowing she got a rise out of people over this.

I stumbled over Yasmin's post. Read it three times. Finally saw the attack -> "dismiss younger generations" I did not see any effort to dismiss anyone by Bill or any poster. And there are other attacks in Yas's post.

Ah, the old battle lines. AIDS vs. everything. Read it in the posts here. If you lived through the rough times you saw the hatred and the avoidance. I lived in SF in the early 80's and remember the combative nature between gay men dying of AIDS and lesbians who wanted nothing to do with AIDS. It was not part of their world. We won't speak of this today but it was a wound that was really hard to move through.

Yas's comments are not really attacks on anyone. But in the context of the posts I can see the old battle lines. In the worst of the AIDS epidemic those with AIDS were screaming for help while many in their own community made them invisible.

I lost 8 very close friends. And a lover. And at 51 I still can find the anger deep in my heart. Some day we will find the courage to atone for the way we treated our people.

"HIV victims became lepers among the Gay Community at that time in ways unimaginable today."

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 9, 2009 3:13 AM

Doug, in that you quoted me, and I know exactly where you are coming from I have something to add.

Because at the beginning the causes and transmission method(s) were so totally unknown there were Gays who did not want to be in the presence of an infected person for fear that there was an "X" factor out there beyond sexual contact. A lot of Gay bars closed down just because of fear of congregating.

In fairness I also saw some incredible moments of beauty and caring for others, but rarely among those who attend funerals.

While my friend Richard was alive (but definitely sick) I also joined a Gay men's health control study conducted by Howard Brown clinic in Chicago to perform complete blood analysis monthly for a year. In those dark ages they were still trying to find out what kept some exposed persons healthy and on many levels we still do not know why some contract HIV from an infected person and others do not. This was a study to see if there was a form of natural immunity in some persons that could create a vaccine. (This before we knew the virus mutates) A lot of people who were uninfected with HIV did a lot and cared greatly.

If it helps at all, I appreciated both Yasmin's and Alex's comments. Both of them added some context to the discussion. For my partner and me, the broad issue of comprehensive health care is critically important. I don't think that HIV/AIDS or any other disease can be addressed without without the foundation of broader health care access, reform, and funding. To the extent that this discussion is also about activism, not just remembrance, this context is vital.

What's up with people calling me trans as an insult? I don't mind - I'd be in good company. :)

I'm 27. My uncle died of AIDS when I was 16.

I am 45 and almost everyone I knew from my early 20s has died from HIV-related complications. And not all in the 80s and 90s. I know 5 people who died this year - all long-term survivors. I lost a girlfriend, all of my gay mentors and friends, and my best friend. The year I was 24, I lost 16 friends - not clients, people I knew of, or folks from around... friends. People I loved. I thought that there would never, ever be anyone to whom I could turn for consolation because I'd be the last one. And it has sort of worked out that way. I've made friends, of course, since - but the intensity of those post-adolescent friendships coupled with the death sentence (this was the pre-protease - well, pre-combination therapy!) hanging over all of our heads was so overwhelming, that since than I have never allowed friends into those spots I used keep open in my heart.

Bill Browning -- this is not for publishing so no need to attack with your censorship knives. You are an obnoxious arrogant manipulator. You deliberately twisted what I said to suit your ends (championing your "projectors" -- are they your pets?) who highjacked a thread about AIDS deat remembrance with their political rants. I called them on it and others agreed! But your ego is so large you only care about how YOU look. You think you allow free discourse but it is more controlled than Soviet era media! Sad little man in a silly little empire that no one reads because of you. You may burn this now.

Manipulated your words? Seriously? After you said I was a transman who thought that AIDS was a gay white male disease?

I'm so glad this comment is up, because it really lets me know what kind of person you are. Have a nice day!

"(championing your "projectors" -- are they your pets?)"

Bil, you should work up some sort of Blofeld-esque graphic of yourself petting a cat!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 9, 2009 4:29 AM

I'd pay to see that, but who will be mini Bil?

I'm 40, presently on the East Coast, but in the 80s and 90s I lived in Denver. Lost several friends both out of my own group of friends and colleagues, and my mother's group of friends and colleagues, most notably my wonderful kind pal Calvin, one of the sweetest & most sardonic men who ever lived. I still have the shirt he gifted me in 92. My friend Renee's uncle Alejandro, in SF, another wonderful man. Also have friends still living with HIV or AIDS after many years of infection.

I agree with the time gap measures you put forth. The upcoming Kiss-in, while delightful and important, is not like the Kiss-ins I used to go to as part of ACT UP and Queer Nation. So how can we harness the intellect of the new kids to the anger of us old folk? how can we remind folks outside our community that there is more to being gay than Will Truman and the guys on Queer Eye?

As to the rest... For some of us, Larry Kramer will ALWAYS be relevant, because we remember when almost nobody was saying what he has always said. For AIDS, he was our Cassandra. So leave him alone. His focus on AIDS & health is no less valid than other queer folk whose entire focus is marriage, or prison reform, or whatever.

RebelPrince | August 8, 2009 3:36 PM

I'm 26 and have lived all over the country- currently in NYC.

No one I know of has died, but my 3 most cherished friends (2 of whom are former lovers) are positive. Watching one of them quickly disintegrate into a shadow of his former self has shaken me to the core. I am, in fact, moving across the country for work, and being near him is a major reason I pushed for the move.

After having worked on marriage for much of my professional organizing life, watching him fall ill and struggle to make it through every day has challenged my priorities and my views of what is the best use of my time.

The real frustration for me is not having a great analysis of the cultural or social factors that created the situation my dear friend finds himself in... I don't know what to do to really prevent more people from falling ill. I don't know how to save him.

As a transguy, watching another FTM whom I mentored through transition go from HIV+ to having full-blown AIDS within a year has been... devastating.

I know how to work my ass to the bone for marriage. I know how to fight for work and housing protections for us and ours.

I don't know how to work for this.

John Shannon | August 8, 2009 6:35 PM

I am 54 yrs old and know too many beautiful young men who were my friends, airline colleagues, and gym buddies who succumbed to HIV/AIDS in the early 80's when I was in my 20's. There but 'for the grace of God' go I. My doctor has always been amazed that I did not become positive. It is not for the lack of barebacking behavior. When I was at my first White Party in Palm Springs in 2003, I was sitting around the hotel pool with a group of much younger gay men. When someone heard what my age was then, he responded that "there aren't too many of your age around". And, that made me think and know how true a statement that was. I have never forgotten that conversation. One thing that I want to say is that in the early 80's people died horrible deaths due to HIV/AIDS. And the discrimination was very, very real...and not just from general came from fellow gays who were afraid too. There were many brave straight people who stepped over the 'leper' line and reached out and helped gay people during their sickness and helped gay people fight for a cure. The fight is not over and the 'gay plague' is now a worldwide disease that must still be overcome.

I came out very young in Detroit in the 90s. As such all of my friends were older gay men. I don't know how to explain it to the gay friends my age I have now because it was so different. It was as if when I came out, I had all of these great big brothers looking out for me, teaching me about safe sex, giving me literature and handing me condoms--even though it would be years before I did the deed. I had a friend who was already very sick and ailing BEFORE he contracted the virus, and went fast. I have another who committed suicide who may have done so because he had found out (none of us know why he did it, but its always been in the back of my mind) and old bar friends from Detroit that are long gone now.

I'm still negative, but I have many positive friends--young friends my age--and that makes me worry that this new complacency with AIDS has made us shitty big brothers. Why aren't we still handing out condoms and talking frank about sex with our young friends, and why do the older gay men who once took me under their wing now avoiding all contact with my generation, squandering the oportunity to teach these important lessons?

When I was younger, the gay community was one big family, and though it was the horrors of the virus and being rejected by society that put us there, it was beautiful and amazing nonetheless. Not to mention that family probably saved my life and millions of other young gay young mens' lives. I don't know what there is to take from that, but it is a big part of my experience.

Thank you for this thread. It's incredibly powerful--and important.

I'm 19, and I've lived in Georgia and California and now New Jersey. Partly due to my age, I don't personally know anyone who died of AIDS, but my gay community is multigenerational and I study queer history, so I've heard many people's stories. I can't begin to imagine how difficult the '80s and early '90s must have been.

There are just too many words to say about him, so I don't know where to start. I did the google search and found the following:

complications related to AIDS January 1 at the Cleveland
Heights home of friend Daniel Postotnik. Michael, a graphic
designer and performer, lived and worked In Columbus
most of his adult life. He served as art director and graphic
designer for the Ohio Arts Council from 1980 to 1987, then
as graphic designer or the Office of Communications at
the OSU College of the Arts until he became too ill to work
in 1993.
As a dancer , Milligan brought energy and charisma
to his work, although he had no formal training as a
Milligan is survived by his parents, James and
Margaret Milligan; a sister, Melinda Sounders; two nieces;
and numerous friends and fellow artists. Those who wish to
remember Milligan may make contributions in his name to
the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland, 2250 Euclid
Avenue,C1eveland,OH 4415

I did a google search for this, because if you knew Michael (and I wouldn't be surprised to find that some of you might) you knew him best as a human search engine before they even existed.

We were lovers late in our relationship, but more importantly we danced together. 15 years my senior, he took me under his wing and became my first and only life advocate, something, unfortunately, my parents hadn't to that point given me (had to claim it from them).

I wasn't there for his death, because I wanted New York City after grad school more than Ohio and facing his death. Silly huh? Moving the NYC in 1989 to escape the shape of death. Like that worked... More to it, really, but I made it to his memorial. And then I cried for nine days straight.

Michael was brilliant, sweet, giving and in many of the subtle, but telling ways that only he seemingly could appreciate he has spoiled me to all men since.

I'm 44 and I live in Central Massachusetts now. I lived in Maine in 1982 when I was 17. I remember the first reports of the new "Gay" disease, called GRID at the time. I guess I was lucky living in Maine. One of the first times I had sex, in 1983, it was unprotected. Now I wonder why I did that, but I guess people didn't know how it was spread then. Shortly after I went away to college in western NC and I didn't have sex again until 87 or 88. (not for lack of trying, just no options that I knew of at the time in the mtns of NC). I'm not sure but I think by then we started to hear how it was spread and I became more cautious with sex.

By 1990 my family had moved to Western MA and I followed. I met two guys who became my best friends. All through the 90's we did everything together. We had tons of fun. I was the relationship oriented guy, and I was always trying to find a date. One of my friends swore off relationships and just had tons of oral sex. The other one was the best looking of the three of us. He was a mixture. He had dates, but never for too long. And due to his looks and his charisma, he never was without a guy. I was always king of jealous of him. Most of the time when we went out, he got the guy, and unfortunately we like the same type. So gradually I did less and less with him, and more and more with our third friend, who didn't have the same type and doesn't have a jealous bone in his body. Finally I moved over the NY State and met a guy and we settled down. My third friend continued to have lots of oral sex. And our good looking pal also settled down for a while. Then in 2007 I lost my partner to an accident. My good friend came to the funeral, but our good looking friend didn't. He was in the hospital with Pneumonia.

My alarm bells went off, but the middle guy said he just picked it up while partying in Montreal. Then he got better for a few weeks and I thought maybe I was wrong. But then our middle guy called me up to tell me he was back in the hospital because he was having trouble breathing. I said maybe we should go and visit him, but he said no, he hates to have people see him in the hospital. So we didn't. Then a week later I got the call that he had died. What????

I asked, and was told that near the end he finally got tested and it was positive. From other friends I learned that he had known for a long time something was wrong with him, but he never got tested, never took any drugs, and even lied to the doctors when they asked him point blank if he had sex with men. And his boyfriend was sitting out in the hall!! He didn't want to be positive. He didn't want people to know, especially his family. He didn't even want them to know he was gay. He told another friend who actually was in the hospital with him that at the end he regretted not getting tested sooner and taking the drugs. But until that time, he figured it would be better to just die, rather than have people he loved know he had HIV.

It turns out the pneumonia had led to a fungal infection in his lungs. Since the doctors didn't know he was positive they treated him all wrong. I don't understand why with all the evidence presented, they didn't insist or even go with the assumption that it could be HIV? Whether he said he had sex with men or not, he could have caught it some other way. It's very odd that with all the other problems I found out he had before he died, no doctor thought that's what it could be? It's very weird. So I would say to any doctor reading this, please do not assume the person in front of you is telling you the truth. And don't assume only men who have sex with men could be positive. (heck my lesbian sister got drunk one night and had sex with a guy. She thought she picked it up).

Anyhow, I have no idea why at 44, this guy is the only one I've known personally and closely to have died from HIV. I know a few people who are positive and some distant people who have died. After my partner died, I've been back in the dating and sex pool. I try to be very careful and with my experience with my friend, I've learned we can't assume we are negative or put our heads in the sand. We need to get tested.

Dawn Storrud | August 8, 2009 9:29 PM

Age 60, former Lutheran pastor in Wyoming, where many AIDS victims, one a seven year old child died in my arms. Even the child was shunned by the straight community. My own younger brother went to Spokane and disappeared rather than announce his illness to my parents.

As a Person Living With AIDS, as a person who has witnessed the deaths of JFK, RFK, MLK, the resignation of a president 35 years ago today, and as a person who has lost a best friend, a partner's best friend, and a partner of 30 years to HIV/AIDS or its consequences, it is extremely hard to write comments about those days. During the early years of this crisis, I sat on the sidelines not knowing what the next day would bring. Many of those between 50 and 70 also sat on the sidelines not knowing what to do. I am grateful for Larry Kramer and Act-up. He should not be demeaned or disparaged in any way for without him and the others in the early movement of mostly gay men (GMHC, Act-up, groups in San Francisco, etc.), we would not have five classes of drugs available today. I will always think of Larry Kramer as a hero. Frank Kameny, Leonard Mattlovitch, Harvey Milk and all those who lead when our friends were dying. Thank you. My friends from Washington, D.C. were all taken by this virus. I remember them all; especially, Bill Handel, John and Eric, and dozens more. My friends in Indianapolis, Indiana, John and Bart, Don and "Z", and a hundred more whose pictures are displayed at the Damien Center, and Marty Grisel, and my partner of 30 years, Joe Ballinger, who died of the consequences of AIDS, we loved you all.

I had to pause for about four hours while writing these comments so I hope they are not too disjointed. Continuing ...

Today's generation is defined; not by HIV/AIDS, or assassinations of leaders, but by 911 and unjust wars in the Middle East. The rights that would have protected Joe and me were not even seriously being considered when he died in 2002. Now we are so close to attaining those rights and we must keep striving for each and every one of them and to my generation; or, at least, me, marriage is tone of the greatest equalizers in our struggle for equality.

I volunteer extensively for HIV/AIDS and am involved with one of the most influential and important groups in the Greater Indianapolis area. It is so urgent for everyone who can volunteer to do so. Enough griping and complaining ... get involved and do it today. Whether it is in prevention or in helping people still affected by the pandemic, there are so many needs. Every person who has HIV needs to be in care and there are resources. It is, believe it or not, still a gay, white disease, but it is much, much more and ignorance of prevention and treatment will be the ultimate destruction of billions of people and maybe even civilization. HIV/AIDS is not curable. HIV/AIDS is sometimes manageable, but don't think for a moment that a single pill a day will work for everyone and keep working for everyone. This disease is very unmanageable, in my opinion, because while I advocate that you must keep it at bay ... so far, the disease always wins in the end. If the HIV/AIDS doesn't kill you or one of the Opportunistic Infections doesn't kill you; then, the medicine might.

Continuing once again after several hour interruption... All I really want to say is the gay community and especially my generation has been decimated. We need to stop squabbling about this or that and name calling those who went before and did so much. Now, we need to get it together and work to defeat HIV and cure AIDS.

This comment really hit me! Thank you!

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 9, 2009 12:21 AM

I'm 65. When the plague hit about '82 I was living in LA. I was politically active and went cruising every day. There were a dozen or so cruising spots in the LA basin plus bars, etc. You couldn't miss. I smiled a lot.

Within 5 years I lost two lovers and an ex. I witnessed the decline and death of dozens of friends and Odin knows now many acquaintances. I took off almost eight years from political and union activism to care for them. My friends and I got so used to it that we'd jokingly guess what stage of grief - denial, anger, bargaining or depression - we were in. I never got to the acceptance stage because there was always someone new who needed help.

I finally burned out and got the hell out of Dodge.

Most troubling of all is the knowledge that I lost my generation to AIDS. By the hundreds, then thousands, then millions. And all accompanied by the laughter and snickering of christians and the abandonment of families, doctors and politicians.

I didn't get the virus, didn't have night sweats, didn’t get the ‘look’ from wasting syndrome. But it still wrecked my life.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 9, 2009 3:47 AM

Bill, what you did was beautiful thing, selfless and noble. It was a fearsome time. I am sure you recall all the black humor of the day too.

("I was never so popular for being fat before.")

I have often thought that John Shannon & Phil Reese's observations above about there being no older mentors, as there were for both of us, when we were first finding our way. I think that it was the interruption in the chain of "big brothers" that has polarized our community into categories. We are all diminished by their loss in ways we cannot count. Too many of us are isolated to friends just within our own age group and we need to grow beyond this narrow view. Elders have had a lot to teach me my entire life.

It was once that one could be 17 and know a 19 year old who had to introduce you to an interesting 35 year old and the group would visit with an elder person and so on. These might, but not necessarily were sexual contacts. This chain was broken and we have to find a way to mend it again. We'll be the stronger for it.

I'm 53 from rural Illinois. I've lost 3 friends to AIDS--one who sat next to me in high school band, the other two who I shared a stage with several times.


Not only is there a generational disconnect, but there needs to be a national discussed on how AIDS, Inc. and the battle for funding streams has attributed to the silencing of passionate individuals not identified with and AIDS service or advocacy organization.

I'm going to read all the comments to this blog posting and respond in a blog item. Activists should need to voice their frustration and outraged with not only the Obama Administration but also the organizations claiming to be our voice of leadership. These organizations are overlooking the involvement of the community of people living with HIV/AIDS as an equal and creditable stakeholder.

It was recently reported to me that only a few weeks ago an executive director who is HIV- and of an AIDS service organization in south who also sits on the board of 2 organizations of significance requested of a White House official to block the participation of an "independent AIDS activists from the South" at the upcoming series of town hall meetings the White House is coordinating as part of the development of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Thankfully the White House official denied the request.

The community of people living with HIV/AIDS should be outraged with attempts to silence the voice of people living with HIV/AIDS - a clear violation of the Denver Princples.

I've been told repeatedly by my queer elders that we younger LGBT folk live a charmed life, built upon the shoulders of giants that paved the path before us. Reading this thread makes me realize how right they are.

Twenty-four, trans, Indianapolis, and I've never seen anyone die of AIDS.

In the mid eighties, on Gran Canaria, it seemed as if the entire gay male community withered away together.

Resort and seaport, there was a relatively sizable community at Las Palmas on GC and at Tenerife. I was more familiar with Las Palmas, living there.

One at a time, faces that I was used to seeing disappeared. Fishermen suddenly were absent from the docks, amidst murmurring and fear. Sometimes, you could guess who had slept with someone by the reaction to someone else's illness...anxiety and pain showed clearly.

Yes, I knew people who died of AIDS; too many

The navy and fisheries patrols were not immune, we had cases too...

A better part of a generation of gay men on the island vanished in a few years..

The first person I knew personally was an early lover of mine from CA that we kept in touch by Xmas cards after I moved to NYC. A friend of his in San Diego called to tell me the news of Joe's death.

Next the artist Antonio Lopez died from AIDS. I knew and admired him but we were not close friends.

My first NYC lover, Abelardo, became sick long after we parted in the late 80s. He died after a valliant struggle in the early 90s.

A sexy model guy I sorta had a crush on died in the late 80s after several hospital trips.

A handsome man I wish I could have gotten to know better died too soon in the late 80s.

The last lover I had, Sunny, is infected but living with his husband of several years.

And I now age 60, live on, taking life one day at a time, here in NYC.


Okay, so now that we've had this great example of community feeling and collective history, here's the billion dollar question/potential skunk at the picnic:

How can anyone after 1985 *not* practice safer sex?

HERE HERE, RORY! I totally understand in a committed monogamous relationship, and I'll be honest--I'll be the first to admit I've had my lapses in judgement in the past--but there are many gay men obsessed with barebacking! Why???

As a 68-year-old gay man I am a pre-boomer. I’ve always been a step ahead of the boomers (for better or worse). I have thought a great deal about your question long before you ask. To understand the impact of the 80’s on my generation you must understand the 70’s because it was a complete reversal, a 180-degree turnabout. The 70’s embodied wonderful advancements. The Psychiatrist Assn. determined that we were not a mental illness in 73; California decided we were not criminals in 74 and said we could not be terminated from jobs because we were gay in 75. It was a marvelous progressive period and remember it was not accomplished with a click of a mouse. It required that we interact and network with each other, which we did because we could see and feel and enjoy the advances we were making. We knew each other.

Although Sacramento, Ca. is only 100 miles from San Francisco, the capitol city was much more closet than the gay Mecca. With state workers and 3 military bases we had our own unique obstacles. We formed social and recreational organizations. We became aware of the importance of our vote (electing our first gay friendly sheriff). I thought it was especially fun to learn that the gay employees of the State Justice Department were organizing. Gay business owners came out of the closet and we supported and got to know them. We rejoiced in our growing circle of friends. The 70’s were very unlike the 60’s.

By 1982 the scene was quickly changing. Friends (30 years my junior) would get pneumonia and be dead within days. Others would be in & out of the hospital repeatedly as first one illness then another would take them near death then return them to a pill filled semi-recovery. I didn’t need a test to give me the news. I was a sex addict and was sure I had it. I stopped having sex (8 years) not wanting to spread the terminal disease. We mobilized. Those still healthy enough supported and helped in whatever way we could. Darkness settled over my sunny California city. Everything changed. As if in the blink of an eye- dozens of friends and acquiesces were just GONE. Many well known, several famous, and many little known; day after day it continued. Our “Community” was becoming a thing of the past. I felt weakened with each loss. I should have been elated when I was tested and negative but I knew that I would have to continue to live and support my sick friends as they became ill and died. By the early 90’s I recognized that I was approaching a personal crisis. I would begin sobbing for little or no reason. I came home one evening and my answering unit was blinking red. Among the many messages were 2 of importance. I could tell by the tone of the voices that there were 2 more deaths! It was a mixture of anger and rage as I threw the answering unit out the window where it remained several days.

As a psychology student of the 60’s I knew a great deal about depression. I just could not control it. The intellectual approach didn’t work. Although I did not welcome them, anti-depressants worked.

It is not over. Deaths continue. We still do what we can.

We need to remember that: The deaths are not over. I have several friends that are positive, and I reassure them and especially our mutual friends less familiar with the disease, that AIDS is not a death sentence like it was 25 years ago. However, that doesn't mean its just an annoying little minor problem now either. My friends CAN die if they don't take the disease seriously. That means that its going to be a part of everything they do, every decision they make for the rest of their lives. 'Should I go out tonight? There are a lot of people who have been getting flu...' Gay men in my generation treat HIV as if its no big deal, BECAUSE they don't know anyone who's died. I certainly never sat by anyone's bedside in their last moments--I moved away long before my friend from my College town passed, and never heard about him until later. If my friends did get sick, though, I'd be there for them in a heartbeat. However, I don't have that experience myself.

The number of positive young people in Champaign, IL is ASTOUNDING to me. In my undergrad the only people we knew that were positive were older, and were not students. However, condoms were readily available and plentiful everywhere, and we tried to play big brother and talk about safe-sex as much as possible. Everyone knew I always had HUNDREDS of condoms and could come get some at any time, and I encouraged it.

Lots of men talk about sex here, but noone ever talks about SAFE sex. The few times I've interjected with it, it makes guys uncomfortable "Where you SAFE?" "Uh, yeah..." We've forgotten that Silence = Death.

I'm 31 and I live in San Jose, CA and I have never known a person who has died from AIDS, but I do have several friends who are positive.

I have a dear friend, Bob, who is in his mid 50's and lived in LA during what he refers to as "the plague." He once told me that there was a time when if you didn't see someone for a few weeks, you assumed they were dead. They weren't busy, they weren't out of town, they weren't doing something else, they were dead. You crossed them out of you address book and moved on. And in nearly every case you never saw them again.

This question BIl asks has made me think again about what Bob told me. I have several friends that I haven't seen for weeks or even months. I assume that they are well and I will see them again someday soon. I assume I (and they) have plenty of time.

I used to think I understood what Bob told me, but now I realize that I simply can't get my head around it. I have never seen the swift, ruthless killer AIDS. I have only seen the medically controlled, mild nuisance HIV. Fortunately, I have managed to remain negative, but I see an ever increasing number of gay youth who just don't care whether they become infected of not.

What a beautiful thread, Bil! Many thanks and I hope it stays active for a long time. BIG HUGS to Robert Angelo and all the other caregivers out there. Please do take time to care for yourselves as well.

There are many thoughts, memories and ideas here to comment on and I'd like to address the inter-generational gulf, but first a bit of context.

I'm a 51 year old white gay man, currently residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Throughout the 80s and 90s I lived in Toronto, at the heart of the largest concentration of queers in Canada. Xtra was only just getting off the ground as a local LGBTQ paper, out every two weeks. They published a section called "Proud Lives." Initially just a few pictures accompanied by brief memorials, the segment grew until it comprised dozens of entries spread over several pages. Toronto's gay 'ghetto' was then very much a village, we lived, shopped, drank and cruised within a few city blocks. "Proud Lives" was like a casualty list in wartime and one scanned the photos for familiar names or faces of friends, lovers, or casual tricks - often discovering for the first time that they'd been ill.

I lost my first-ever boyfriend in the late 80s. He was handsome and joyful, fiendishly sexy and tremendous fun. He took me a long way out of my closet. We'd broken up several years earlier but had remained friends. He was planning on leaving town and wanted to get together first for a drink. I didn't know he was HIV+ but a mutual friend outed his status before we met. I was devastated but put on my bravest face for our meeting. Putting back draughts at the St. Charles Tavern, I kept waiting for his 'confession' but it never came. He was bright, sarcastic, funny as always, and after an hour he had to go. We said goodbye as if we'd meet again. I sat alone for a moment, then ran out the door and caught up with him in the back alley. We hugged and I kissed him. "I love you," I whispered in his ear. He smiled. We never put it in words, but by then we didn't have to. He died within the year in hospital, loved and cared for by friends and definitely not alone. That was the late 80s and for years it just seemed to get worse. My mother had served overseas as a nurse in WW II and I remember saying to her that AIDS was our war and that we were - in every sense - fighting for our lives.

Now we're almost thirty years into the pandemic. One generation is greyer, one has grown up, and a third is coming into its own. For several years now (after years of decline) infections have been rising amongst younger gay men, and HIV stigma within the gay community remains a huge barrier to effective prevention. I also agree with Yasmin's and Alex's points (and I may be stretching them a bit here) that race and class are huge factors in determining access to basic health care, let alone effective AIDS treatment. And I love Larry Kramer for still being as cranky and single-minded as he is; that's his job! HIV/AIDS has always been and still remains an enormously complex social issue. There is no one answer to why indivduals bareback or get involved in the P & P scene, but I'm afraid I don't believe that 'peer pressure' is the most effective way to get younger queers, of whatever background, to embrace frisky, fun, and effective safer sex. Maybe we need to revisit some of the ACT UP strategies from years ago. Maybe we need to talk more about HIV and sex what they mean to today's queers.

I loved Robert Ganshorn's comment about the breakdown in communication between older and younger gay men. I remember well imbibing lots of Toronto's hidden queer history - along with a few gin and tonics - from older gay men in bars that no longer exist. Sometime those meetings were sexual, sometimes flirtatious, most times just companionable. With the decimation of a whole generation of gay men such conversations no longer seem to take place. Yet I also feel that there is a growing desire on the part of LGBTQ youth to have such a dialogue. Certainly Milk, along with being a great film, seemed to reveal such a hunger. If we elder queers can reach out to them, we might actually learn something. We have a lot to offer, it's absolutely true. But I would say to Erik that one doesn't need to have seen first-hand the "swift, ruthless killer AIDS" to be an effective activist, although we can help him visualise it. "Medically contolled" HIV is more than a mild nuisance and I firmly believe that Erik's generation will be front line fighters in the ongoing thirty-years war; we're here to help in any way we can. Love! Valour! Compassion! Much more than the title of a play, those were our, and will be your best weapons in the fight.

So beautiful! Thank you for sharing this with all of us!

Thanks, Phil. But really it's a pleasure to engage in the discussion. This thread is really something of a quilt itself, but live and interactive!

All the best!

Reading that sent a chill right down my spine. Wow. Absolutely perfect!

I have already added to this thread and over the
last several days I have read and re-read the other
postings. My thoughts have been on the close
friends of mine that have died of AIDS in the 1980's and 1990's. Some of these were former boy friends,some friends and some co-workers. I feel a real sense of sadness. These were men I felt I was
going to grow old with. They were my peers and
in some cases role models. I personally feel as if
an entire generation of Gay men have died. With
extreme dignity and respect I want to remember
three men who were very special, Jim, Stuart, and


Please give consideration to moving this to the top from time to time and also keeping it there a while. There is a wealth of information and encouragement to be found in these posts. Run it again just prior to various HIV/AIDS Walks, World AIDS Day (December 1st annually), the National Day of Testing, Pride Events, and so on.

I am one of what is now considered "long-term survivors". I first tested positive in 1988. Just had my regular clinic visit yesterday. Undetectable viral load; CD4 - 972. The best it's been in more than 10 years.

I have seen more friends than I care to remember go due to this disease. I stop and think occasionally "Why me? Why am I still alive" I don't know but am very glad I am.

I remember my friends well. I remember the fun we used to have. The way they used to brighten everyone's lives. The sorrow when they left us. Too early.

The thing I find most disturbing about the posts here is people's thoughts that HIV/AIDS is a "gay" disease. Nothing could be further from the truth. Luckily, it struck us first. Otherwise, it might have gone unnoticed until there was little hope of ever getting any help or control. I've yet to meet a gay person who isn't outspoken.

Charles, HIV/AIDS is a gay disease in as much as the gay community took ownership for the disease for so many years, and in as much as many of my generation lost their lives to the disease, and in as much as 55% of those currently living with HIV/AIDS in the United States are gay and have become infected through MSM. The fact that others also become infected, and the fact that HIV/AIDS is a world-wide pandemic clearly demonstrates that the disease is a human disease, but none the less it is usually associated with sexual contact, to a lesser extent to the exchange of bodily fluids through needles and other possible exchanges. You say "luckily, it struck us first" and you reason that to be a good thing because gays are so outspoken. Surely you didn't actually mean that. I find that reasoning completely flawed. If HIV/AIDS had become an epidemic among almost any other population in the United States, there would have been major research, major panic, and possibly even a cure by now. It would not have taken Reagan six years into his term before saying HIV/AIDS aloud. I could write a lot more about this, but you get my drift. I am very proud of the gay community for taking ownership, responsibility and action because without the Larry Kramers of the world, we would not have the five classes of drug treatments that we currently have, but it wasn't easy and Larry Kramer and Act-Up and hundreds of thousand of people had to die before we reached the place we have. And, people are still dying form HIV/AIDS every single day and a new case is reported every 9.5 minutes of every single day.

No No and No. The only people who get aids are habitual or intrevenious drug users and homosexuals. Rarely the latter even though its opposite what you have been told. Read the book. "Inventing the Aids virus"

I'm going to have to respectfully but VERY EMPHATICALLY disagree with you. Everyone who is sexually active IS in danger and anyone saying anything to the contrary is a total liar that do NOT have your best interests in mind. USE A CONDOM EVERY TIME!

I have worked AIDS hospice from 1984 till 2003 and my heart pours with sharing experiences. I feel alone and hurting that this human suffering will continue to go un-noticed, despite my grumbilings. Does anyone want to hear and it's not all tragedy....where do I go to be heard?!

roberta Schultz | December 1, 2009 10:35 AM

I am currently 32 live in ocean county nj. My uncle and his boyfriend died from Aids when I was 16. At that time and my age I didn't no about being gay. I thought my uncle and his friend lived together. His boyfriend Glenn got sick and past first. Then my uncle...I watched him go from being such a funny person to someone who couldn't feed or bathe himself. I can't explain what it does to you to watch someone you love get so sick but apart of me died too. I didn't understand the whole aids thing I just understood he was so sick. I will never forget I wrote him a letter and told him how much I loved him bec. I knew the end was coming soon. We got a call one morning and we ran off to the hospital and with all his family there he past away. I being selfish cried for him to come back to me and not to leave. But I understand now he is in a better place and the pain is gone. I think about him all the time and what little time we had together he taught me so much. I never thought less of people who are gay in fact being around people who are makes me feel closer to him. And Aids i am not scared of it. You can hug kiss and be around someone who has it without worries. I always wonder what it would be like if he was here with me. But when i am down and out i talk to him. I love you Uncle Frankie

This brought a tear to my eye. Thanks for sharing your story with the rest of us!

I am 46 years old and reside in NYC. My brother died last year at age 36 from AIDS. I am devastated and I will forever miss him, we were extremely close. I have also experienced a half a dozen other friends who died in the mid 90's of AIDS. They all died in their mid to late 30's. Noone deserves to die that way at such a young age. Their lives cut so short. My brother and each one of these friends brought so much joy and I am so very heartbroken that they are gone way too soon.

BuenSabor | July 5, 2010 12:16 AM

57 now.

I remember when my sister's boyfriends were dropped by it in the late 70's. She got out of needle park & thought she was clean. But she died of it in '02. after living with it for 24 years. Nasty shit.

She'd slept with my boyfriend early on, so when she found out (circa 1990) we all got tested (me, my wife, him, his wife) but we all ended up clean. Didn't do my sister much good; she died anyway.

Because of who she got exposed to, can't help feeling she'd be alive today if I'd done something.

My name is Mike. I am 44, HIV-, gay and live with my partner of 7 years in Houston, Texas. My brother Carl Borup died of AIDS-related dementia and AZT poisoning in April, 1991. He was an absolutely wonderful person - very caring, kind and considerate. He lived in West Hollywood, had a cat, a boyfriend and lots of friends. My mother was at his bedside when he passed. There was no pain since he was on a morphine drip.