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No matter what we do, sex is a beautiful gift, because it is such an exhilarating feeling, and it’s such a positive way of getting the feeling that I am wanted in this world, I am respected in this world, and I am loved in this world. And it’s what we all want.

In July of 1985, I was in a relation with another person. He had been very ill, so while he was getting tested, I figured I’d get tested too. We both became HIV positive patients. He only lasted till October. He was buried and I came to Chicago to live. I had a small house, a bungalow, and I sat there and did absolutely nothing. And a year later I was looking at weeds in the back yard, the front didn’t look too good either, and then I said, hey I’m here a year later, what happens if I’m here another year? So I started cleaning up, and fixing things up a little….

I’m a gay man. I never told my mother I was gay. She knew. She says: What did your friend die from? And she went through a long list of diseases, and then she said: Did he have AIDS? And I said: Yeah, he did have AIDS. –Do you have AIDS? And I said: No, mom, I have HIV. –Well, that’s the same thing. And no, I informed her. Well, she lived in a senior residence, she had friends. She said: Please, don’t tell them. Because they won’t come around. And among seniors it’s still that way. They are not educated as to how it is transmitted. They have fears of eating from plates that people have, shaking hands, using the same bathroom. And none of these are ways of transmission. Sometimes the wrong things we believe stick with us, because it’s easier to want to believe that if I don’t touch that doorknob I won’t get the disease. So I won’t visit that person.

In the beginning it was terrible. We were pariah at that time. You don’t want to dare tell anybody because they think terrible of you. We’re accusatory: “You’re a dirty person. You’ve done something wrong.” No, this is just another illness in life. It’s not damnation. It’s not something that God throws down at you because you’ve done something wrong. It is a physical problem that can be rectified. But you also have to realize, living with the drugs changes your life immensely. So if you can protect yourself, do so.

The world is filled with beautiful people who are gonna help you stay healthy. A support group can give you: hey, you’re having a bad day today, but wait tomorrow. Meet me and I’ll take you out, we’ll go and do something. They can help you out of your doldrums. We’re all gonna have ’em. But you can talk your problems through, and sometimes you get education from somebody. You know, there may be a drug that I don’t know about.

I hate to say, I feel very guilty. I’m a very religious person. I pray every day and I feel that in my prayer I have to mention the names. I mention seventy names every day but there are hundreds of others who died. We lost magnificent people. Don’t know what the world would have been like if we had these people and had all the wonderful things they had to offer us. We don’t have to lose those beautiful people today, because we have the drugs to hold them. Give them a little better health. Or maybe, if you get the right education, prevent them from becoming infected.

Young or old, everybody has something to offer. Just give them the opportunity. Absolutely.