My Illness Explained

"...I believe this topic (HIV/AIDS) & knowledge of it & about it should be shared with all,.. men, women, & especially children/teens... in the effort to save lives...."

[[[ Bear in mind, this work-in-progress is subject to much editing. ]]]
: - ))

Well, since you're here, & since you just passed through three "checkpoints", I'm gonna presume that you are not too squeamish about the details & opinions I'm about to impart. I'll do my best to convey my thoughts clearly with little rambling.

Let's get the discussion started. This is presented from the point of view of a 44-year old HIV-positive gay male, who as of Jan 1999 will have survived HIV for approximately 19 years. That's almost a decade! Before we start, some may wonder why I include children (or @ LEAST, teens) in the mix of those needing to be informed. Mostly it is because I have been gay since I was 10-years old. If, in that sheltered time in our society I knew, imagine what the kids in today's society are "aware of". I've seen this epidemic rage it's ugly head from the beginning. From the time when the paramedics brought in an HIV patient & toned " we have to go and totally disinfect our rig..." to the med intern coming out of an AIDS patient's room & making sick jokes @ the nurses station. HIV/AIDS: "...You can't catch it from the air..." you breath. I remember that. Mayor Coch, wasn't it? An enlightened man. But not many were.

Early on, before I was tested, it was known, or highly suspected, that HIV could be transmitted sexually. I heard jokes about it while I was working @ the V.A. Hospital in Long Beach, CA. For example, those same med students had a graphic of a male sodomizing another male with the words "...Not without a condom..." penned in. I added "...or two..." But it wasn't a topic openly discussed @ first. Well, I was young still (29) & pretty sexually active. Most of my weekends & many times nights during the week were spent @ the baths. In 1980, I had about six or so STD's in a row. But, @ that time in history, it was "...give me the shots..." & "...where's the next party?..." This is when we believe I was infected. The first few years I had a number of unexplained illnesses. Mild ones, but nagging & persistent. Colds that lagged & lagged, unexplained headaches, sores that took forever to heal, extreme fatigue & a few others that turned out to be non-HIV-related.

About the same time, I was also subject to about 10 peri-rectal surgeries for fistulas over a four-year period. To this day I believe the doctors on the surgery wards were trying to make it so I was less @ risk for infection. Yes, I was (& still am, but more on that later) a receptive/submissive sexual partner. See, as a ward secretary, we got pretty "chummy" with a lot of the doctors. It was the nurses' jobs to administer the meds & all, but it was our job to administer the nursing station, order labs & special procedures, etc. The nurses could do it, but they are much too occupied with direct patient care you understand.

By & large, if this was the case, it did not completely work. A month or so after I healed, some evenings & weekends found me back @ the baths. Or, I'd go to a bar to relax & end up finding someone to bed. Or, I'd run into a friend or make a friend on the bus, or wherever. So althuogh I was not a tramp, I did have my share of encounters. Keep this in mind when we later discuss re-infection & drug-resistance. Around 1989, I began to seriously think about my senanegins. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to be playing Russian Roulette. The idea that you could be re-infected or become resistant to the drugs was not wide-spread @ this time. Nonetheless, I began to curtail my activities.

Unfortunately, I was also beginning to show increasing symptoms. The ones I had before intensified. It became more difficult to concentrate, make it to work on time, or last the entire day. And just forget about overtime. And my nerves, both emotional & physical!!! Impatience, insomnia, indigestion, indecisiveness, they all visited me & stayed a while. They started giving me drugs to combat & prevent the illnesses they did know about....AZT (in massive doses), Bactrim DS, DDI, Ativan, Amitriptylline,.... & a slew of others. Well, the symptoms from the drugs only complicated things. The AZT caused many side effects & intensified other symptoms that were mild to this time. We now know that the amounts we were given were extremely excessive to the effective dose & extremely toxic. This caused much nerve damage to my feet & hands. The Bactrim put me in the hospital for 10 days after only two pills had been taken. Some of the other drugs kept me bed-ridden a lot & tired &/or constantly in the restroom. This finally made it too impossible to continue working.

In 1990 I went on Social Security disability. My T-cells had gotten down to 203 (@ 200 HIV turns into an AIDS diagnosis), my viral load peaked in the 60,000 range, & my activity level was (if 3 is total bed-ridden) a 5. I was a mess. I'd have friends turn around & take me back home before we got to the restaurant because I was too tired to go. And it was getting pretty difficult being too far away from the bathroom. This was the pits.

Did I say "...How I didn't get sick..." before? Well, it's true. In @ least my mindset, sick was PCP, or something like that.....the areas from which most of my friends never returned...........

To Be Continued

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