I was infected sometime before 1978. That year my partner and I participated in a Hepatitis C study and our blood was frozen. Once HIV was identified and they had tests our blood could be tested and Michael asked about his, and his blood was positive. If his was so was mine. We had many years together with a lot of anal sex with no thought of protection.
In 1981 I met a man from New York at the Catacombs, a private sex club in the basement of a beautiful Victorian in San Francisco who fucked me. When I visited him a few years later he was very tired, so we had lunch but didn’t play. About six months later his roommate said he’d died. While he may not have been the man who infected me I credit him because he was such a fine man and very good sex. Why blame some stranger at the baths?
When I knew a disease that didn’t have a name was killing gay men I spent half on hour sitting in the sauna at the gym trying to look into my body to detect any sign of disease. I sensed nothing. I did it twice to make sure. I also visualized a PacMan game with the virus as black specks in my body that were being eaten by the jaws and collected. I mentally moved them to my bladder and pissed them out. I also made a bargain with the virus. If I live, the virus lives. If I die, the virus dies. So far the virus as kept its end of the bargain.
Before there were treatments I did everything I thought would keep my body healthy enough to deal with the virus. Around 1982 I started acupuncture and herbal teas (usually horrible combinations of roots, seeds and beetles). I saw a chiropractor regularly, got massages once a month, had a regular routine at the gym and walked half a mile every morning. As soon as AZT was available I consumed it eagerly. With the exception of two drugs, I’ve progressed though various ones for the last twenty plus years and my t-cells have gone from 160 to the mid-600’s these days. I also take an herbal combination in pill form twice a day.
Two years ago I was dizzy and fell down twice. I was tired and forgetful. My blood work was still good, and no one knew what the problem was. After three MRIs and two lumbar punctures that didn’t detect anything that may have caused my problems my doctor at Kaiser, Stephen Follansbee, correctly guessed that HIV had gotten into my spinal fluid. With special tests at Stanford we knew that was the case. New meds have corrected that.
One added note. My great great grandmother on my mother’s side of the family lived to be 111. My father recently died at 95, so I’ve been endowed with good genes. I may also have that mutant gene scientists discovered in communities that survived the bubonic plague and think may provide similar protection from HIV.