April #46 : Back to Life, Back to Reality: Don Kao - by Angelo Ragaza

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Table of Contents

L.A. Confidential

Fat Chance

Back to Life, Back to Reality: Ron Rosa

Back to Life, Back to Reality: Michelle Lopez

S.O.S.

To the Editor

The Last Dance

Truth or DARE

Piece of Mind

Poster of the Month: Absolutely Not Enough

Hang a Right

Out in Africa

Mutual Disgust

8 Years to a Vaccine and Counting

Say What

POZarazzi: Shock Troops

High Time

POZ Picks

Obits

Back to Life, Back to Reality: Don Kao

Back to Life, Back to Reality: Roy Mead

Back to Life, Back to Reality: Linda Grinberg

The High Cost of Living

How to Make Art in an Epidemic

The Seven-Year Itch

Varsity Blues

A Woman Under the Influence

Integration Now

Get Over It

A Pocketful of Protein

Under-Celling PWAs

Brain Storm

Reefer Rap

Get Baked

All You Can Eat

Raging Hormones

Het Connect

Where to Find It

Frequent Flyer

April Showers . . .

Payback Time

From Fruits to Nuts

When Adam Met Eve

Aunt Evelyn's Letters



Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle

Shingles

Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


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April 1999

Back to Life, Back to Reality: Don Kao

by Angelo Ragaza

The New York Times calls it a “unique affliction,” a trauma matched only by death-camp survival. But for us, Lazarus Syndrome, named after the biblical figure Christ restored to the living, is just the price we have to pay for life in the protease era. POZ spoke with five PWAs about the long march back from death’s door.

Age
47
Home New York City
Occupation Executive director, Project REACH, a youth-led program for at-risk youth
Tested Positive 1992

The Dying Game
All of a sudden in August ’97, I started getting 106-degree fevers that weren’t accompanied by anything else. I ended up in the hospital three times for a total of 30 days. It was MAI, a non-pulmonary form of TB. Just before then, I told my doctor I wanted to go on the protease. So not only was I taking the new meds, but they piled on top of it all these antibiotics. That first weekend my stomach was wrecked. I was down to almost 100 pounds.

Turning Point
Somehow, in the hospital, I didn’t think I was going to die. But it was hard to convince myself because I didn’t seem to be getting better. I was crying every day, breaking down. That went on until December, when I began to get my appetite back. My viral load dropped from over a million to undetectable.

Work Ethic
A lot of my friends, as soon as they tested positive, quit work. I couldn’t do that—although I would love to not work—because there’s too much to do. I’ve been with Project REACH for 13, 14 years, and we get four to five weeks of vacation a year, and I barely ever took two weeks. When I got sick, I never went off payroll.

Since coming back, I’ve made decisions, such as asking four out of six staff members to leave, that I would not have made before getting sick. Sometimes I feel I’m not as nice a guy as I used to be. But I feel that until there’s a cure, I have a responsibility to make sure that this program outlasts me. This closeness to death has made me even more clear about the work I’m doing.

Back to the Future
I decided recently that I’d much rather be with someone who’s positive than deal with all the neuroses of negative men who go out with positive men. But I don’t know that I have much more of a future than before I got sick, because I’m only a year and a half of being undetectable.

I think it’s somewhat manageable, the virus, but I’m not fooling myself into thinking that it’s over. Whether I live another year or another five, I know what I want out of life: I want as much as I can get.




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