I’ve been to places like that where people over 50 live. And these ladies, older ladies, say: oh, but he’s so good looking, and he’s so clean. And he’s such a good dancer. Does she ever ask him if he’s ever been tested? No.
The guy that I was so madly in love with lost about fifty pounds. He couldn’t go out dancing all night. We used to go fishing all day, dance all night. And he could hardly walk. I said, “what’s the matter with you?” He wouldn’t say anything. So the doctor called me over and he said, “have you been tested?” I said: “You’re talking about AIDS.” And he said yes. The guy that I was so madly in love with had tested positive for HIV.
And I went down and said: “Why didn’t you tell me?” He says, “I’m sixty-eight years old, I ‘ve never worn a condom in my life, and I’m not gonna start now.
When people first found out that I had HIV, nobody would call me, nobody would talk to me. Nobody would touch me. You can have cancer, you can have multiple sclerosis, you can have – bird flu. And that’s acceptable. But HIV is not acceptable. In any way.
Right after I was diagnosed, the nurse down there said: “How old are you?” I said, “fifty-eight.” She said, “how did you get it, through needles?” I said, “no, I got it through sex.” She said: “You’re having sex at your age? That’s disgusting!”
I work in a law office twice a week. And I brought some cookies down to work one day. There was a woman down there and she went around telling everybody, “don’t eat her cookies or you’ll get HIV.” And that was only a year ago. So the misinformation is still there, even among educated people.
But there’s not a day that you don’t wake up and know you have HIV. There’s not a day. Probably, out of nineteen years I had five good years. The rest of them I’ve been sick as a dog. When I first started taking protease inhibitors, that was 1997. My t-cell count was fabulous, my viral load was fabulous – but I couldn’t walk. Those things made me so sick, uh, God they made me so sick! All these medicines attack everything in your body. It’s just like taking rat poison every day. And you’ve got to do that for the rest of your entire life?
Everyone’s body reacts to the medication in a different way. So you have to read up on every single medicine, what it does, what it may do to you, what the side effects may be, what you can’t mix it with … And it’s not easy. It’s a fulltime job. But most people, they figure the doctor is gonna take care of it. And he can’t.
Just because you’re 50 years old doesn’t mean you don’t want sex any more. When I first started this program, that’s what they thought. And women who have had a happy marriage and a good sex life don’t want it to disappear in their old age. One time we went to Century Village and we took female condoms. And they’re very expensive, had the box under the table – I walked away from the table for a minute to talk to this guy who was telling me about “THAT woman over there who had 7 partners.” But I came back and all the female condoms were gone. You know, these people, they’re young. Old people aren’t old. I’m not old. I’m 73, but I don’t think I’m old old. My body is old, but my mind isn’t.
I mean if somebody told you that if you went and did this, you wouldn’t have a heart attack tomorrow, you’d go and do it, wouldn’t you? Or if you did this, you wouldn’t have breast cancer tomorrow, you’d do it. Right, wouldn’t you? Don’t you think you would?
But all you have to do is wear a condom to keep from getting HIV, and that’s too much to ask. Isn’t something, huh? I should have been dead. But I’m not. So maybe that’s my purpose in life, is to keep this movement going, to make people aware. That this disease is not gonna quit.