Soon, I was given charge of a middle-aged man, Archie, who was mostly incapacitated from an AIDS-related stroke. I visited Archie several times a week for almost eight years, helping him eat his dinner, praying with him, and generally yakking my head off to a captive audience. Archie's family had completely abandoned him, opting to tell his mother he was dead, rather than gay and sick with AIDS — which would have meant he'd had sex with other gay men.
Visiting the SAAF house all those years was very emotional as patients and friends got horribly sick and died. In those days, HIV and AIDS patients had scant visitors. Misinformed about transmission of the disease, even family and friends were afraid of standing too closely or touching someone infected with HIV/AIDS. Treatment was uncertain and experimental. Preachers were screaming AIDS was the homosexuals’ “curse” for being gay and “coming out” wasn’t very popular.
SAAF continues, as they did from the very beginning, to provide excellent medical care and social services for their clients. Most importantly, their staff and volunteers give compassionate care to all their clients. SAAF provides confidential AIDS testing and their educational programs work to prevent the spread of HIV through education, counseling, and testing.
When Archie passed away, we held a memorial service at the AIDS Foundation. It was very heartwarming to see all the people who cared for and about Archie come to the service to say a few words. Nobody asked or cared about anyone’s sexual orientation or how Archie “got that disease.” What pulled us all together was more important than our differences.
has not gone away, nor will it. According to Avert there are more than a million persons with HIV living in the US. Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino communities have been disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS in America.
October 15 is National Latino AIDS Awareness Day. For more information about where you can get HIV testing, read Femme Nation’s blog at the SA Current.
For more from Laura Carter, visit A Small Blog