I have never heard this expression before, but once I read what it meant, two things sprang to mind. One happened many years ago, and the other more recently. The recent one was all about Fifty Shades, and trying to get people to understand that there has to be an aspect of mutual consent, of safety. This post will not be about that. This post will be about something that ended on 1 August 1999, the day a very dear friend died of AIDS.
I met W when I started working at the same company where he had been working for years. He was only two years older and he happened to have exactly the same first and last name as my father, which created an instant bond. He was a cheerful guy, outgoing but with something mysterious. Back in those days (I am talking late 1980’s) many subjects could not be discussed openly. Many of us thought he was gay, but no one ever said it out loud. We went to parties together, had fun in the office, teased each other and just always had a good time. When I left the country, we grew apart, until both of us had Internet. Occasionally we dropped each other an email, but I was always more of a writer than W was. Which meant he frequently went quiet and I patiently wait for the next sign of life from his side.
It was during one of these silent periods that a mutual friend – who still worked with him – sent me a fax (yep, they still existed back then) telling me that W was in hospital, fighting for his life. Only then I learned that he was HIV positive and that this was the second time he had to fight for his life, that in the meantime he had full blown AIDS. This must have been in the first half of 1997. She kept on sending messages and I was relieved when I learned that W was out of the hospital and back home again. Slowly our email correspondence started again and slowly I learned what he had been keeping from all of us for all those years.
He was one of the very first to contract HIV, because his very first lover had many other lovers and used drugs. This was in 1984, just before news of HIV and AIDS hit the world. His lover died in 1988 or 1989 and that is when W had himself tested and learned that he was HIV positive. He never told anyone – only his doctors knew. When I got to know him, he was already diagnosed. Only when he had been admitted to the hospital for the first time did he tell his colleagues about his illness. Unfortunately some people started avoiding him – even people who he considered to be his friends. One so-called friend even asked him whether he could have W’s dining room table, because W was going to die anyway and won’t need the table anymore.
This made me furious and this is where I started championing for accepting people with HIV as much as people accepted others who were not ill. I hated that some people thought that they don’t have to treat someone with HIV/AIDS as a person. I raised my voice, my heart raced, I talked faster… everything to get the word out and get people to understand that people with HIV/AIDS have feelings too. Up to today, I still feel very strongly that people with HIV/AIDS should not be pushed from the community. Their lives are difficult enough as it is, even though meds nowadays are a lot better than it was back then. Thankfully, there’s a lot more awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS than many years ago.
W came to visit us for three weeks at the end of 1998 and ended up staying for two months, because he ended up in hospital, gravely ill. We thought he would die, but thankfully he got well enough to be discharged from hospital. He was admitted with pancreatitis. His pancreas couldn’t handle any alcohol anymore, and all the medication he used for HIV/AIDS contained alcohol. The doctors stopped the meds to help his pancreas to heal. They were going to try and find other meds for him, but after some weeks they told him that there was nothing they could do for him anymore. Back then there just weren’t any HIV/AIDS meds without alcohol. W was okay with that. He was thankful that he had been granted 10 years more than his first (and only) lover.
We visited W and he took us to all his favorite places, wanting to show us where he found peace and quiet, where he loved to go. About 4 and a half weeks after we left, we heard that he was admitted to hospital, gravely ill again. We knew it was the end. He was really sick, couldn’t get out of bed, barely could eat. He was skin and bones. After a week in hospital he got better. He got out of bed, walked around, joked and seemed to be on the mend again. Three days later, the world lost a very special person.
W died, on 1 August 1999.
© Rebel’s Notes