I am writing in hopes of opening a few hearts that may otherwise be uncaring or unaware of the daily existence of someone affected by AIDS. I have been dealing with AIDS since I was 25; I am now 33. I have been through the death of 80% of my peer group. When I tell people how many deaths I have been involved with on a personal basis they don't believe me, saying no one knows or has that many "friends."
I have tested positive for eight years. Yes, I deal with the fear of my own death, but the real scare is not my actual dying but how I might suffer. I have seen such horrors that I can't even begin to describe them.
I see sickness and death everywhere I go. It has become a way of life, something I have to live with and deal with. I have committed myself to helping the fight against the misconceptions and prejudices, which can overwhelm a person with this infection, by working as a health educator for the city of West Hollywood.
I feel like I am in a world where death and disease is the norm, not the exception. I don't flinch when I hear of someone's passing; I may mourn but it is no surprise. I wonder why I have remained healthy for so long. I am at my saddest when I see someone running or laughing because I am envious of such small and simple satisfactions. I have a 24-year-old sister who is retarded. She has been in and out of the hospital countless times, and I thank her for teaching me how to begin to deal with my life in this time of AIDS. She has never uttered a word, but has taught me more about life than anyone. I am in a war I did not want, but one that it is being fought here on American soil. Yet most Americans have no idea that the kid next door may be infected. It may take 20 years for this country to realize that the suffering and fear need not have been so great if only we cared.