March #33 : Soap Dish - by David Cohen

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Table of Contents

Reed Between the Lines

Hard to Swallow

The Beauty of Men

Soap Dish

Golden Girl

Lord of the Guys

Shakin' Baker

Don't Reign on Her Parade

Let's Make a Deal

The Rules

God Is Dead

Brain Storm

Drug-Free Zone

Phoenix Envy

Thrush Gets Smart

S.O.S.

The Award Goes To...

Absorbing Drama

Losing Lesions

The Tea Drinkers

New Old Story

Say Chi

AIDSpeak

Protease Inhibited

Hot And Bothered

Adhere Say

And For My Next Trick

Not For Sale



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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March 1998

Soap Dish

by David Cohen

I am a real PWA -- and I play one on TV

"If you want my body, baby/All the rest comes with it too," sings Keith Christopher on his new CD-in-progress, The Naked Truth.

The former dancer's body is unquestionably beautiful. It's also strong: Christopher, 40, was diagnosed with HIV 15 years ago, when he started bruising and bleeding inexplicably while on the road in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. "They thought I had leukemia," he says of those long-ago GRID days, "but it was ITP." (ITP -- immune thrombocytopenic purpura -- is a platelet deficiency often associated with HIV.)

Christopher played a dancing football player in Whorehouse, but his first love is music. He used to sing backup for his fellow singer/PWA, the late Michael Callen, and like Callen -- who preached safer sex long before anyone in the gay community wanted to hear it -- Christopher's art led naturally to activism. "In 1995, when I was at my sickest, I made an agreement with God that if I got out of the hospital, I would devote myself to AIDS education and awareness," he says.

Soon he was cast as a gay man with HIV on the NBC soap opera Another World. The news that this openly HIV positive character was being portrayed by an openly HIV positive actor led to talk-show appearances on The Sally Jesse Raphael Show and others, and public-speaking engagements at colleges.

It also led to another soap opera -- CBS' The Guiding Light -- and another HIV positive, gay character, Wyatt Sanders. "Wyatt could be any character," says Christopher. "He just happens to be gay and HIV positive. It could be your neighbor, your daughter, your son. It could be anyone -- because it is."

Christopher admits that he was ambivalent about being an HIV poster boy. "At first, I didn't want to be 'that guy with HIV,' but then I thought, 'This is why I'm here. Why resent it?'" he says.

Recently, Christopher served as the spokesperson for a pharmaceutical company in a series of national radio spots. "Part of me feels like a hypocrite, but I'm secretly thrilled to be making some money off these companies," he says.

Christopher may be taking their money, but he's stopped giving them his. He switched from saquinavir to ritonavir to Crixivan before near-fatal side effects convinced him to cease all antiretrovirals last year. "I was so dizzy and anesthetized that I asked myself, 'At what price survival?'" And with 15 years of survival under his belt, Christopher is more than qualified to pose the question. "I would much rather have a reasonable quality of life -- working on my CD, making love with my boyfriend and having a social life -- than walk around like a zombie with an acceptable viral load," he says.




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