When first diagnosed with HIV, more than 15 years ago, I sought a spirit to save me. My doctors were gurus, and science was my religion. Kaposi’s sarcoma was stigmata, and antivirals were the trans-figured host. I dabbled in the occult: mysterious mushrooms and elixirs that promised salvation, bizarre rituals of sexual healing and endless meditations on warrior cells.
After a while, I doubted that salvation for this body was possible. Too many drugs had betrayed me, and I had betrayed myself worshipping false gods of overindulgence. My self-righteous-ness posed as piety. The many memorial protests and support groups I attended were holy gatherings, but I couldn’t speak in tongues, my soul twisting and writhing in ecstasies of mourning or rage forever. Seeking redemption, I tried the “AIDS, Medicine & Miracles” retreat, sat in circles with Ram Dass and read A Course in Miracles. I climbed 12 steps.
Recently, I set off on a new vision quest, sampling the spiritual offerings of a dozen churches, synagogues and mosques, all of which offered an AIDS ministry. Their messages stirred my soul. But still, I felt drawn to the community of my own brethren, that tribe of long-standing survivors, and those recently “born again” into the sister- and brotherhood of the tainted blood. Throughout my positive pilgrim’s progress, the succor and strength of other people bearing this cross have most nourished my soul. It is their tales of fortitude and healing that have, ultimately, shown me the way toward transcendence.