The purpose of this book is to start a new
organization. One that gets the word out to
Colleges and Universities. The non-profit
organizaton shall be called Worldwide
HIV/Aids Information Initiative.
My Odyssey with HIV
I am quiet person; A little shy, a little private. I never dated
much and pretty much stayed to myself. I have always been
gay but years of celibacy left its mark. It was not that I was
anti-social but rather that I was reserved.
In 1986 I took a commission in Quebec City to restore a
major church. My career had led to me to architecture and
to the building and restoration of churches. In this very
charming city I met quite a few nice fellows at very formal
yet convivial dinner parties. At one of these there was a man
I was introduced to. I was polite but I had no interest. That
was not the case with him.
I am not fluent in spoken French but he aggressively
pursued me. Since he was a second grade catholic
schoolteacher to the institute affiliated with the church he
was all too nearby. I continued to be polite but firmly made
it clear that I preferred not to get involved. This did not go
down well. He took matters in his own hands and hopped
up on drugs and alcohol cornered me one night in the old
city and overpowered me and raped me. I still remember
the smell of the icy cobblestones, the heat of my tears and
the warmth of the blood running down the back of my legs.
It was February 15th, 1986. Valentines Day will never be a
holiday for me. I went home. I did not speak French well and I am an American in a city that, at the time, was not too fond of us. I did however speak with a couple of acquaintances about it. I was so shaken. They both told me right off that I should get
tested. They had heard that my attacker was positive. The
job was almost finished and when I got back to the states I
went and got tested. I had been tested as part of a routine
physical just before I went to Quebec City and was negative.
That was six months previous and I had been with no one.
This test came back negative too but when I explained to the
doctor what had happened he recommended I get tested in
three months. Three months later after waiting an agonizing
two weeks I got the news: Positive.
I was devastated. It was the mid-eighties and I had my
home in the Adirondacks far from any in touch medical staff.
No one knew what to do. My dentist dropped me. I was
treated by the doctor’s as if I were radioactive and a leper.
The difficult thing was telling my parents. It did not go well.
It was, according to my father, very much my fault and I
deserved it. Mom just cried. I seemed to be always looking
over my shoulder waiting for the man with the scythe. There
was no counseling at that time and no agencies to guide
one. I basically gave up and became a hermit. I couldn’t
handle it. It was during this time that I learned that my
attacker had died. I thought I was next.
Well I wasn’t. I seemed to keep bumbling along. My career
was in a complete stall. My creativity had died. I did not want to take on another contract because I did not know if
I could finish it. I was tired all the time. I did small projects
and worked in the antique trade. Then one night, well over
a year after learning I was positive, I decided to break out
of the walls I had built around me. I went out to a club in
Vermont. That night I met a nice fellow ten years my junior.
He was so sweet. He was also positive. My David; my
koala. We both fell for each other immediately. It was the
start of a good seven-year relationship. We took care of
each other. We went through the various things as new
drugs came out. I stayed steady at a t-cell count of 350-500.
Over time though David started to decline. He was adamant
that no one be told. I respected his wishes but it “rubbed
my fur the wrong way” sometimes. We only were connected
with the clinic and not an Aids Service Organization. We
lived in Vermont and Vermont being Vermont there was a
good deal of both acceptance and activism. David wanted
no part of it.
Over the next four years David just faded away. He got Aids
related Lymphoma. It went into remission with a great deal
of medication and chemotherapy but he could no longer
work. I took a total of three jobs to keep our little family
of a tabby cat, a schnauzer and us going. I told no one of
my condition. My main job during the day was for a man
who was very abusive. Taking care of David and working
fourteen hours a day was taking its toll. Something had to
give. The abusive work situation was the obvious choice.
So I resigned. I wanted to roll over my health insurance
using the Cobra laws. I contacted Blue Cross / Blue shield.
To do this they had to have the employer’s signature and
sent him the form. On it was listed my previous health
condition. HIV Positive. I was outed. He was furious. He
broke into our home and started to beat the crap out of me
for not telling him. He drew blood and again I did not fight
back. He bent me backwards over the back of our couch.
David came down stairs, pulled him off me by the hair.
Wise choice. He was vain about that. Then David called
the police. He was caught by them and pled guilty before
the district Attorney could attach a hate crime provision to
the charge. In Vermont that is the way it works. He was
sentenced to twelve hours of Community service.
My back hurt and it got worse. Then one morning my legs
seemed to be like Jell-O. By ten O’clock that night there was
no feeling in them and I could not walk. David got me to the
doctor’s and they sent me immediately to the hospital. After
an MRI it was determined I had to have spinal surgery and
immediately. My response was “But I am HIV positive, you
can’t operate on me can you?” The response was of course
we can if you want to walk. So they did and after a year of
therapy I was laden with bad memories but I could indeed
Not long after, in 1995, David’s lymphoma returned. It was
unrelenting. In that year sixteen of our friends died of AIDS.
David was the last to go just before Christmas; just before
my birthday. I said good-bye to him and we told each other
our love as we looked into each others eyes. He weighed
a third of what he had. Two days later I led his memorial to finally drag myself the length of the bed to the desk and
pull the phone off the desk and call 911. I was brought to
the hospital and after tests was told that my viral load was
over 800,000 copies, my t-cells were very low and my platelet
count was less than 5000. Not too good. The news was not
all bad. A brand new anti retroviral had been approved a few
weeks previous and I was put on a new regimen. After
about nine days I was sent home under my own steam. My
walk was halting but a physical therapist comes to the house
and my strength is returning. This time there are no side
effects. I feel a new calmness and a determination to
So what has HIV taught me? Well a great deal. I Originally
studied to be a Catholic priest. HIV has taught me what
that education never did. I have learned not to judge and
to forgive. I have met all sorts from prisoners to prostitutes,
from the poor to the rich and realized that HIV is the great
leveler. We are all in this together. That is the gift hidden
under the wrappings of heartbreak and loss. Although I hate
this virus I am also a bit thankful for it. It has taught me what
never was made real by all that study: humility in the face of
tragedy, a joy even on the darkest of days and that I must
treasure what I have in those I love and those who love me.