In over 13+ years, PWA has added over 100 names to our AIDS memorial panels. Clients have come to us for services, education and to find a safe place to tell their stories.
“Danny” has been HIV+ for 25 years. He remembers the “good ole days” when life was without worry, except when and where the next party was happening. It was a carefree time when little was known about HIV disease and yet many friends were getting infected. He recalls in the early years of the disease, people were more likely to just “give up” and live life without concern about the consequences. Early in the disease people were dying within 6 months to 1 year of diagnosis.
And then things changed. He was diagnosed along with many of his friends. At that time it was a “death sentence”. Medications were few; treatment was awful; and friends died horrible deaths, often alone because families disowned them. He recalls that people began to change their behavior and made a choice to not engage in risky behavior. Going to medical appointments, taking medication, taking care of each other became the norm.
Danny has lost many friends to HIV disease and is one of only a few that is left. He has his stories of fun times from the past, as well as the regret that goes along with those stories. His health is beginning to fail him and yet he continues to do whatever is necessary to continue his battle.
“Cindy” has been HIV+ for about 20 years. When she was diagnosed, she was engaged and thought she was in a monogamous relationship. She had been to college, had a great job with the government, and had a great future – or so she thought. Some days she still feels anger toward her ex-fiancé and grieves for the life she could have had. She talks about getting very sick, quitting her job and moving back home to North Carolina. She went into a tail spin – drugs became her demon to fight.
She ended up on disability because she was too sick, physically, to work. HIV also took its toll on her mentally and emotionally too. She chose to tell her family that she had cancer – it was more acceptable than HIV disease – and she knew her family wouldn’t disown her. Cindy continues to struggle, not every day though. Some of her family members know she is HIV+ and have not disowned her. She has “accepted” her disease as part of who she is, but knows that it does not totally define her.
She, like, Danny, has seen many friends die from HIV disease. To her credit, she is doing well. Her disease continues to respond to treatment and mentally she is in a much better place than years ago. She is drug free now, which is quite an accomplishment for her.
Danny and Cindy know many of the 100 names that grace our AIDS memorial panels. They grieve those close friends that have lost the battle. And they keep on keeping on….