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October 6, 2016

THIRTY YEARS OF HIV

I’ve lived with HIV six times longer than I was married and almost twice as long as my partnership with Michael A. Schoch.  I’ve been positive half of my life as an out gay man, but they don’t give medals for that.

I met HIV before it had a name; because of blood frozen as part of a Hep B study, I was infected as early as 1988. In 1981 no one knew what was killing gay men, and everyone had his own explanation and his own cure, none of which helped a wounded community crying out for help. In retrospect the saddest were those who latched onto Louise Hay’s healing through positive thinking and packed airplanes to LA to hear her speak, only to die. A drug was smuggled out of Japan that in the end was no more helpful than sushi.

I started AZT the day it was available and have consumed a volume of drugs that rivals any rock star. My partner, Michael, believed AZT caused AIDS and took it reluctantly with buckets of wheat grass. Days before he died he was in a horrid nursing home and said, “I’m doing my best to live with dignity on morphine.” I now see that was his way of saying he was doing his best to live with dignity as he died.  His last words at home in our bed were, “I love you.”

As an HIV-positive man, I worked for three mayors of San Francisco and held executive positions with various nonprofits. What’s been most fulfilling is volunteer work, first with Human Rights Campaign Fund (now HRC), where I ended up board chair and then chair of the founders committee that raised $3.2 million for what is now the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library.

I must have good genes and have done everything to stay alive, including acupuncture, regular gym workouts, massage, herbs, and dark chocolate. My father made it to 95 and a great, great grandmother made it to 111, so I will probably be here with Don at Querelle  for a long time.

Finally, let me say I’m single and two dogs are great company for a writer.

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