A year ago, in a previous installment of this column, I anguished overwhether to include a story in my memoir of 25 years as a taxi driver,Don’t Take Me the Long Way. In the story—about my fellow driversraising $672 for me during a period of extended illness—I disclose thatthe illness was AIDS and that I almost died from PCP pneumonia. Idecided to risk including it, and I’ll never forget when I knew I hadhad an impact. One evening, under the harsh fluorescent lights of theDesoto Cab garage, my mostly Muslim and Hindu coworkers were countingtheir money at the end of a shift as a Christian evangelist ranted onTV (the channel hadn’t been changed since the ball game ended). A tall,stoic driver approached me. “Hey, man, I loved your book,” he said.“You just put everything out there.”

My colleagues have becomesome of Don’t Take Me the Long Way’s loudest promoters. A laminatedadvertisement for it hangs over the backseat of a half-dozen taxis; 600copies have been sold from cab trunks, almost twice the number as inbookstores. All this scrappy self-promotion has paid off: A bigmainstream men’s magazine featured me and my memoir—from backseat shenanigans to a psychopath who tried to kill me—in a three-page spreadfor its August car issue. Other interviews have followed. The funnything is, now that I have the opportunity to be a high-profile HIVer,the disease is the last thing anyone seems to really want to talk about.

It’strue that the first subject the men’s magazine reporter brought up wasmy HIV. Though the interview topics ranged far and wide, I felt fromthe very beginning that he genuinely cared about my health. But hislengthy article made no mention of the virus. I can understand why AIDSdoesn’t fit in a men’s magazine centered on stratagems for picking uphot chicks. Still, seeing the topic deleted from an article all aboutmy ability to survive what life has thrown at me, all from  behind the wheel of a cab, brought home how, for the mainstream media, AIDS is always a disease that afflicts “others.”

Thispast summer, I did an interview at a black radio station. Theinterviewer, a friend, gave me 30 seconds to define the state of theplague. I said that the medications work well—but come with a price: anaddictionlike pill habit and some gnarly side effects. He concurred,then deftly steered the conversation back to the beef between 50 Centand the Game. I did a phone interview with a cable-TV producer whohadn’t read my memoir and didn’t know I had HIV. As I told him about my crusade against the virus and determination to raise money tofight it, I started feeling uncomfortable—I realized there was deadsilence on the other end of the line. For a moment, even I thought Imight be sounding a little melodramatic. But then I remembered how,when I had PCP, I spent two weeks in a hospital bed using a nebulizer,weak as a kitten, sucking down oxygen. Melodrama be damned, Icontinued my speech, explaining how psyched I was about a bigPhiladelphia AIDS benefit concert that had happened a couple of weeksprior.

I can’t blame either of these journalists—one waskeeping his audience happy, the other keeping to a schedule. The plaintruth is, one man’s burning issue is another man’s ashtray. And don’tget me wrong: After so many years scribbling in obscurity, I’mloving all the attention. A couple of cute Korean waitresses in a restaurant recognized me. Passengers —readers of the magazineinterview—have said: “No way, dude? Is that you?” But as long as I’mgetting known for being me, I want my HIV—and the battles that go withit—along for the ride.