He read as much as he could about macrobiotics, vitamins and positive thinking, and he drastically changed his diet for the better. Joshua, a former professional dancer who lives in the San Fernando Valley, also took up yoga and began meditating.
"If I had it (the test) to do over again, I wouldn't do it," he admitted. "You get a mind-set about it. And that's not good for you. Unless you're strong enough to handle it, don't take the test. I think about being positive every day and that's what I am trying to get away from, the negativity."
For David, a 35-year-old Los Angeles schoolteacher who was tested positive in January, more than his own anxiety is at stake. He has changed his diet, gone to a therapist and quit smoking, but he's still trying to decide if he should tell his parents, who already know he is gay.
"I don't want to unnecessarily frighten them," he said. "I know they will love and support me. But right now I am healthy and I still have this sense of invincibility. . . . If you believe in your health and your ability to remain healthy and spiritual, that can only help."
Mrs. G. is a widow at age 29. Her husband died of AIDS this fall, leaving her with a 2-year-old child and no job. She went home to live with her family. In July, 1986, after her husband was diagnosed with AIDS, she tested positive. So far, her baby has tested negative.
"At first I was very angry," she said, sitting in the living room of her family's home in Los Angeles. "Suddenly, after we're married, he is positive. I said how can this be possible? He finally admitted he had had a sexual encounter with a former male roommate."
Mrs. G. and her husband had their testing done at the Edelman Center, which is part of the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, and received counseling there. "The gays are really very nice, and they have a lot of good information," she said. "But I can't relate to them. I am not gay."
Support Groups Offered
Even if she were gay, she might not have found the counseling to be adequate. The Edelman Center, which offers support groups for HIV-positive people, has only three counselors to talk with people before they take the test and after they receive the results two weeks later. The center tests about 50 people a day, so the maximum session per individual is only 20 minutes to half an hour.
"Very often that half an hour is not enough," said Hugh Rice, the center's director. "If the individual is in crisis, we have counselors who take extra time. If he needs more help . . . we recommend a private therapist."
Mrs. G., a devout Mormon, said her faith helped her forgive her husband and begin to deal with her medical condition. But she also has turned to a private therapist, whom she credits for helping her develop a positive outlook; is trying natural alternative therapies and plans to start taking AL 721; and has begun eating more nutritional foods and listening to stress-reduction tapes.
But she still fears that if people find out she is HIV positive, she won't be able to get another job (she left her job as a secretary in 1986 to care for her husband) and when her baby is of school age, authorities will keep the child from going to class.
"A lot of people take their life for granted because they think they'll live forever," she said. "With this, you appreciate every day you have, because you don't know how many you'll have left."