St. Petersburg, Florida
Positive since 1989
I am a long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS, having lived with the virus for 29 years and counting. My T-cells did indeed drop below the 200 threshold once (to 118), giving me the dubious distinction of having had AIDS.
My partner of 16 years, Patrick, died of complications from AIDS 13 years ago, and I’m still dealing with the fallout from that whole horrible ordeal. I’ve fought chronic depression, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and various health problems. I have been told numerous times I’m too healthy for disability but too sick to work. What chance does a 57-year-old man living with AIDS this long have?
I will not give up. Suicide has never been an option for me. I’m trying instead to be a spokesperson of some kind for people who have been, or currently are, in a similar position. We long-term survivors are some of the strongest, bravest yet troubled people I have ever met. Survivor’s guilt can become all-consuming.
Therapy has helped me, although one hour a week barely puts a dent in the terrible guilt and rage I still harbor inside over the death of my partner and the battles I had to go through dealing with hostile family and friends while trying desperately to give that beautiful man as painless and pleasant a passing as I could possibly afford him. Two different therapists have told me I’m suffering from PTSD [posttraumatic stress disorder] because of the trauma I suffered during that time. I lost our house (Patrick’s childhood home) to foreclosure, both our cars, my job, health insurance and, finally, my sobriety.
I have found that being a long-term survivor can be as difficult—if not more so— as fighting the virus itself and the stigma associated with it.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Strong. Compassionate. Defiant.
What is your greatest achievement?
Being Patrick’s caregiver.
What is your greatest regret?
Losing the house.
What keeps you up at night?
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
The stigma attached to it.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Give yourself a break.
What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?
What drives you to do what you do?
What is your motto?
I will survive.
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
A picture of Patrick and me in happier times.
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
An owl because it is stealth and mysterious.