so, here's the thing about "good" stuff and "bad" stuff...
i think we can all agree that HIV is bad, right? i mean, it's a virus nobody really wants, but a lot of people have. the good thing about having HIV here in the states is that you can get treatment, and it's pretty available and affordable. not so in many other places. doesn't that chap your heinie?? it chaps mine.
anyway...HIV started out as a big, scary, bad thing in my life wayyyy back in 1985. my dear, wonderful, crazy friend, tom tested positive. we were 22 at the time. we had NO idea what it meant...what to do...what not to do. so, we didn't do much. the one medication available then was AZT, and his body couldn't tolerate it. he cleaned up his act (no smoking, limited drinking, eating healthy, sleeping more...you know) and he did fairly well. his goal was to live until we were thirty. i was SERIOUSLY pissed off. it didn't seem right, and there wasn't much going on in the community at the time. people were scared.
then, a friend told tom about a little non-profit in the city (phoenix). he went there for the free legal service...he got his affairs in order, so to speak. i needed to do something, so tom encouraged me to volunteer. he liked the people there, and thought i would too. at the time i started there, in 1991, there were more people talking about HIV...more social services available for those in need. we were serving largely men who identified as gay at the time...and many of the men we drew in (because of our location) were working in the sex trade. needless to say, i learned a LOT. i met some incredible, amazing, strong, loving people. i helped people, and i was helped. a good thing.
in 1993, we noticed a sharp increase in families coming in for service...positive moms, dads, and children. we started monthly parties, so the families could network. then, i'm not sure why (because we were naive idealists, i think), we decided we should start a camp...one week in the summer for families with infected/affected members. so we did. it was HARD work, but it was completely glorious. we all lived together for five days in the cool(er) pines of the north. the volunteers took care of the kids. they rode horses, swam, and did art. the parents took classes, got massages, and shared their lives. and through this program, i met tim, to whom i am currently married. a really fabulous thing.
tim was a freaked out dad when he arrived at our little agency. his wife had tested positive for HIV during her pregnancy with their son...and at six months of age, the baby (who is now zach) tested positive too. we invited them to camp. there, they met the families who had gone before them...into the land of blood tests and medicine...and who would come after them. this was a really good thing.
after a few years, tim and his wife went their separate ways, and tim continued to bring zach to camp. tim wanted to volunteer and he did. he helped lots of kids have a great summer. zach has grown up in this community (which, in our area, is very diverse). he does not see non-traditional families as different. he knows what to do to keep himself healthy, and he does it. he has watched peers and close adult friends die, and he doesn't want to. he has seen the quilt, he has talked about his sexuality (yep, he likes girls), and he has helped others learn that he is okay and totally not scary. an amazing thing.
so, now i have this wacky little family...tim, rosie, zach, and me. three negatives and one positive. we live with this bad thing in our home all the time, but it brought us here together, and that's the best thing of all. i also have cherished friends i met through my volunteer work...some fellow volunteers, some clients...and we have wonderful shared lives. a beautiful thing.
in march of 1994, darling, brave, incredible tom lost his fight (we were both 30). i credit him with bringing me here. thanks, tom. i love you and miss you. watch over us. i hope we make you proud.