For a handful of months now, I’ve been contemplating a decision that I know many long-term HIV survivors have contemplated before me.
That is, I have considered going off my medications—all of them—and letting Nature and the virus just take their course. As a long-time advocate of a patient’s right to choose when and how to end his own life when facing a terminal disease, the decision to cease medication seems to me a perfectly rational, honorable decision available to me.
Every long-term HIV survivor on the planet has stories to tell about friends, lovers, co-workers, and/or family members whom they lost to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 90s. Anyone familiar with my writing knows the importance I place on our storytelling, our sharing our stories ourselves, to avoid the “straight-washing” of our history that happens when we let others tell our stories. With that in mind, this is a story about the first of my friends to die.
Dean died first. In early 1982. For about a year, we had.... Read More
Around the first of April of this year, I began using a wheelchair when I leave the apartment. This was an inevitability that I resisted, fought off for as long as I could. Admitting that I need a wheelchair struck me as “the last straw,” akin to simply giving up, accepting the fact that the virus is winning. Worse, I have become more of a burden to my fiancé Rick than a companion. (When he read a draft of this column, Rick balked at my thinking I’m a burden on him and assured me that I’m not. He’s a good man that way.)
However, between the debilitating pain in.... Read More
Honoring Our Experience, a social services program run by the Shanti Project, sponsors a series of REVIVAL dances to honor long-term HIV survivors in San Francisco. Hank wrote this piece for a talent show at the February 2018 REVIVAL dance and has graciously shared it with the Diverse Elders Coalition for publication on our website.
It’s 1959 and I’m six years old. My family has gathered at my grandparents’ house this Sunday to watch The Ed Sullivan Show. I’m sitting on the cold linoleum floor, watching, as this very tall, thin, very regal-looking woman walks onto.... Read More
As I write this article, slightly more than a month before my 65th birthday, I wish was eagerly anticipating a lovely fun-filled celebration. But I know better. I will most likely spend the day in bed with the covers pulled over my head, wondering, “What the hell happened?!”
Not that long ago—although it feels like a lifetime—I was a very active, respected wrestler and amateur MMA fighter—I have a championship belt hanging on my wall that I won in an eight-man MMA tournament in 2001 at age forty-eight. Today,.... Read More
Kintsugi: A Survivor’s Reflection on World AIDS Day 2017
When the Japanese mend broken objects, they emphasize the damage by filling in the cracks with gold.
They believe that when something has suffered damage and has history, it becomes more beautiful than before.
This is kintsugi, the art of “fixing with gold.”
We were broken. Thirty-six years ago, a virus invaded our community, invaded our bodies. It destroyed hundreds of thousands of us. Those of us whom the virus couldn’t kill, it left broken—physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually broken.
We have suffered damage. Those of us who carry the virus inside.... Read More
Recently, I marched with thousands of other people in a candlelit rally here in San Francisco. We marched in unity – LGBTQ folks, women, undocumented immigrants, elderly straight folks, young kids, African Americans, Latinos – all the marginalized people who face dire and immediate threats from the Trump administration. We marched and chanted. We held each other, we commiserated, we cried and laughed, we pledged to support each other and to work together against the forces of racism and bigotry that have won this temporary victory at the polls. We pledged solidarity.
Then, about half a block down Castro, I was stopped, frozen in my tracks by a hand on my chest.