Randy Shilts, in his brilliant 1987 book “And The Band Played On”, describes Rock Hudson’s death from AIDS on October 2, 1985 as “a demarcation that would separate the history of America before AIDS from the history that came after.” AIDS had been around well before Hudson’s illness and death spread through the mainstream media, it just hadn’t been as big a mainstream story before then, despite the fact that 12,000 American’s had died or were dying of the disease. Hudson’s death brought AIDS to the forefront of America’s awareness.
Anyone who lived during those early years of the AIDS epidemic knows how controversial the disease became, as many saw the virus as a punishment from a vengeful god. Nearly thirty years later, there are still those who see it as a punishment from god. It’s a disease that’s not only misunderstood, it’s often not understood at all. I’ve learned over the years that not just with AIDS, but with most other diseases and illnesses, unless we know someone who has the disease, we rarely pay attention to it, rarely take the time to learn about it.
I believe that part of having an illness is a responsibility to help educate others about the illness, as well as sharing your story, to make it relateable, so others can understand what the illness is like, and to hope that your story helps others who are dealing with the same illness, whether they are the one with the illness, or a friend or loved one who is dealing with the disease.
“Dispatches From The Moon” is the story of my journey through life as an HIV+ person — from the initial diagnosis, through the current day. The stories I share won’t always be chronologically told, and they may make you uncomfortable, but, I believe that true stories should be as honest as they can. In the process, I hope that I help you to understand what it’s like to be an HIV+ person.
The title of the series comes from Paul Monette’s beautifully written 1988 book, “Borrowed Time”:
Equally difficult, of course, is knowing where to start. The world around me is defined now by its endings and its closures–the date on the grave that follows the hyphen. Roger Horwitz, my beloved friend, died of complications of AIDS on October 22, 1986, nineteen months and ten days after his diagnosis. That is the only real date anymore, casting its ice shadow over all the secular holidays lovers mark their calendars by. Until that night in October, it didn’t seem possible that any day could supplant the brute equinox of March 12–the day of Roger’s diagnosis in 1985, the day we began to live on the moon.
The fact is, no one knows where to start with AIDS. Now, in the seventh year of the calamity, my friends in L.A. can hardly recall what it felt like any longer, the time before the sickness. Yet we all watched the toll mount in New York, then in San Francisco, for years before it ever touched us here. It comes like a slowly dawning horror. At first you are quipped with a hundred different amulets to keep it far away. Then someone you know goes into the hospital, and suddenly you are at high noon in full battle gear. They have neglected to tell you that you will be issued no weapons of any sort. So you cobble together a weapon out of anything that lies at hand, like a prisoner honing a spoon handle into a stiletto. You fight tough, you fight dirty, but you cannot fight dirtier than it.