Stories of Hope

'I never even told my mother I was gay and she didn't know. While lying there in what I perceived to be my deathbed, I thought that my mother would abandon me. She never did.'
00:00

A Mother’s Unconditional Love
Story & Recording by Aaron Holloway

I never even told my mother I was gay and she didn’t know. While lying there in what I perceived to be my deathbed, I thought that my mother would abandon me. She never did.

I was a graduating senior at Prairie View A&M University in Texas and on my spring break visiting my mother when I was diagnosed with AIDS and end-stage renal failure. When I arrived home, I was greeted very warmly by my mom.  Her retirement party was that night. Over the weekend, my health continued to deteriorate. On March 10, 2008, the anniversary of my father’s passing four years prior, my mom insisted on taking me to the emergency room. She drove us to the hospital, where I was born and where my father passed away. I was beyond terrified.

After check-in and having my vitals taken, the nurses began taking several laboratory tests. Within 24 hours, I was checked into the hospital and had an AV fistula implanted into my heart. I was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure. The nephrologist assigned to me was shrewd and proclaimed that my kidneys were “gone” and I would never urinate again.

The same general physician I saw previously in the presence of my mother informed me about my AIDS diagnosis, and thereby outed me — twice.  I will never forget what that physician said to me.

“Wake up! It’s AIDS. Are you surprised?”

Miraculously, during one of my dialysis treatments over that summer, my kidneys regained their proper function.  I was able to return to my undergraduate studies.

In May 2009, I graduated cum laude from Prairie View A&M University with Bachelor of Business Administration in Management degree.  I also graduated cum laude from Texas A&M University – Commerce with a Master of Science in Technology Management degree.

'The stigma is more dangerous than the disease. We still have a lot of fighting to do for the people who don’t have the privilege of cost-effective medication.'
00:00

Battling the Stigma
Story & Recording by Hernando Umana

This is by far the most important, scary, liberating post of my life. Here we go — 10 years ago, at a young, young age of 20, I was diagnosed with HIV.

I’ll never forget the moment they told me. It wasn’t possible — I had only slept with three people in my life! This can’t be true.

The first words out of my mouth were, “How long do I have to live?”

That’s how uneducated I was about. it. It had been drilled in my head that gay people get HIV because of wrong-doings and they deservingly die from it. Well, I’m here to shut that shit down.

There is nothing wrong with me, and I am healthier than I’ve ever been. In the last 10 years, I’ve met countless of HIV-positive men. Some of these men are so affected by the stigma that they don’t tell a soul about their status, even go as far as not taking their medication.

In our extremely privileged community, the stigma is more dangerous than the disease. We still have a lot of fighting to do for the people who don’t have the privilege of cost-effective medication.

So I stand on the shoulders of people like @staleypr, who risked his life for us. I stand on the shoulders of the millions of people who had to suffer and die from this disease. I stand on the shoulders of the gay men who were forced out of the closet in such a scary time. These men and women fought and died to get to where we’re at now: To take a pill at night and never have to worry about dying. To get the disease to a point where it is impossible to transmit (undetectable).

How can I be ashamed of this? I honor their legacy by telling my story. So let’s talk about it. Let’s ask questions. Take your PrEP. Use condoms. Be safe. Let’s end this stigma forever and eventually end HIV forever!

To those who have questions:  Don’t feel dumb asking anything about it. It’s not your fault there’s such a lack of education out there.

To those who are afraid to talk about their status:  You’ve got at least one guy right here 🙂  You are loved.  You are beautiful, and there is nothing wrong with you.

I, Hernando Umana, am a proud gay man LIVING with HIV. Fuck, that feels good to say.

'I want you to know that I’m still here and fighting. I am well and able to love in a way I couldn’t have imagined back then.'
00:00

Tom Rolfing, 1949-1990
Story & Recording by Ralph Bruneau

Dear Tom Rolfing,

It has been such a long time since you’ve been gone. I honor your life, death and the years we spent together. You were my first real love and biggest loss. I am forever in your debt. So much of who I have become is due to our time together.

We were: Summers on Fire Island, cocaine and Scotch, Upper West Side and West Village, sexy boys, quaaludes, Cartier roll rings, Studio 54, ordering in Chinese food, Levis and white tees.

Then AIDS came and we were: Kaposi’s sarcoma, doctors and hospitals, ACT UP, funerals, terror, wheelchairs and hospital beds — and then you were gone.

I want you to know that I’m still here and fighting. I am well and able to love in a way I couldn’t have imagined back then. You are still in my thoughts and in my heart. I think, I hope, that you would be proud of me.

I remember you. I remember us. I love you.

'When my friend Bob had only a few months left, my nephew Tommy was born. I remember one day, we drove out to the East Bay so Bob could cradle Tommy in his arms.'
00:00

New Arrivals
Story & Recording by Ed Wolf

A friend says, this is the year that won’t stop taking and I feel it too, a deep sadness. When I worked on the AIDS Ward at San Francisco General Hospital in the mid-1980s, I had a constant heaviness in the center of my chest.  It was always there and difficult to know what to do, what to say, where to go.

Sometimes, when patients were feeling it too, we’d go upstairs to Labor and Delivery. We’d stand outside the nursery window and watch the new arrivals.

Years later, when AIDS finally came into my house and my friend Bob had only a few months left, my nephew Tommy was born. I remember one day, we drove out to the East Bay so Bob could cradle Tommy in his arms.

On the way home, Bob wept so deeply.

“What is it? I asked.

“I wanted to hold someone,” he said, “who has just come from where I am going.”