Another disappointing International AIDS Conference. I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to go to Vancouver. Maybe that they would have something interesting to say about a new treatment or a promising breakthrough. I’d been having a really bad HIV time, so attending a conference where that would be the only topic of conversation held little appeal. After complaining to my girlfriend for the zillionth time this month, she told me I should make a t-shirt that says I have AIDS and IT IS MAKING ME CRAZY! I like that.

There was one good reason for me to go to Vancouver. Not because I was speaking there, not because it was all paid for. I went for the women. Babes with AIDS.

Seeing my girlfriends from around the world is the one thing that is guaranteed when I attend these big events. At home, no one thinks my AIDS humor is funny. People just tilt their head and toss me that ahh-the-poor-girl-has-dementia look. But the girls get it. We rendezvoused immediately in Vancouver.

Andrea, Sherri, Sylvia and I are all Jewish. Bonnie is an honorary Jew. We were in total agreement that the conference held promise in just one area: Husband-hunting. What a place to find a nice doctor, preferably an infectious-disease specialist. You know, someone who could take care of you for the rest of your life.

When you reach the tender border of 30 and all your husbands are dead, it is really hard to find a man who wants to be in a committed relationship. This can be a problem for most women around this age. Throw in a pesky sexually transmitted disease, and the pickings get really slim.

There were times we settled. Actually, after talking, we agreed that if you lined up all our post-HIV-diagnosis boyfriends, it would be hard to tell the difference. Tall, Dark and Needy? Hey, babe, I am all yours. Unemployed? Why don’t you move in, use my stuff, wreck my car, and while you’re at it, fuck my best friend? Oh -- and don’t forget to tell me how attractive you find my mother. Isn’t that cute? The war stories come out when Babes with AIDS get together.

Over Canadian Sushi, Bonnie shared her latest tale of woe. "God, I thought I was home free. He had all his teeth -- at least the front ones -- a job and was under 80. OK, it sounds better than it was, but I was really hopeful. Then one night we were watching America’s Most Wanted. Boy, who would have thought a nice Jewish girl would fall for a man who eviscerated his own mother (and the family cat)?"

Sylvia hadn’t been having any better luck. She told us about the last boyfriend. “He was really sweet. but he had some kind of smell disorder. It wasn’t that he had no sense of smell, it was his body odor. Finally, I decided that I’d rather be fucked by a broken bottle than gag on his fleshy fumes. But what really ended it was when I woke up one night and found him fucking the mayonnaise jar. Trial size, of course. That was just too weird.”

I hadn’t been doing any better. I just had fallen for a guy right after he had separated from his wife, broken up with his mistress and kicked his girlfriend out of his city apartment. Hmmm. My perception of available was a little skewed. But the dog had just died and I was lonely. I know I am too needy when I start to offer blowjobs to anyone who will hold my hand while I get an I.V. put in.

By the middle of the conference, none of us had had any luck in snagging a potential mate. None of us had had any luck in even getting laid! Though one night, Andrea and Debbie were at a pig roast when a cute Russian guy approached. He seemed hetero -- he kept looking down Debbie’s shirt. He called his translator over, and, well, let’s just say we learned that his tastes ran more toward the four-legged paramour.

Things were looking grim. When a Jewish Babe with AIDS can’t get laid, you know something is wrong in the world. There seemed to be only one solution: Shopping. There’s no malaise a good line of credit won’t cure. So we blew the conference, went downtown and managed to pass a few hours as department-store divas. Andrea bought complete leather regalia that was tighter on her than it was on the cow. She explained that wearing tight leather was almost like having sex. She really couldn’t explain why.

Finally it was time to leave lovely Vancouver for our prospective homes. But all was not lost. I think we had more fun talking about relationships than most of us have had in them. I’ll take hanging with the girls any day.