Honolulu’s distance from the AIDS epidemic has changed in my life


AIDS was once just an issue

I never had HIV positive friends before. In truth I never thought of the possibility of having HIV in my life in some form or fashion. Here in Honolulu we enjoy a bit of geographic protection from the virus that was so very feared we hen I was a child. It would be too extreme to say we are quarantined by default from HIV. But we do have lower infection rates than the mainland United States.

Every year, as a responsible adult who follows the best pu lic health wisdom if the day (mostly), I get tested for HIV. I always feel apprehensive waiting the fifteen minutes it takes for the rapid test to produce results from the finger prick. I always think that no matter how bad a day I was having, no matter how troubled my life appeared to be, if that test came back positive, this time before I received the results would be the good old days. If that test came back positive. And no matter how confident I had reason to be, I received my negative test result with weak kneed relief.

I was holding court, sharing the benefit of my (imagined) wisdom…

I was grateful I was able to talk about AIDS as an issue and not a personal experience. Why would I want AIDS to be a part of my life? The fear people felt about AIDS in 1980’s New York absolutely dwarfs any apprehension about COVID in today’s Honolulu. The other day I was enjoying time with two guys who know each other already and we’re getting to know each other to form sort of a threesome.

AIDS in history

I hope we will become friends. To that end we have been spending time and I’ve been talking a blue streak about current events. I reflected about the effect the emergence of AIDS as a medical and social problem had on making homosexuality mainstream. When I was a precocious child in the early 1980’s reading about a new disease tentatively referred to as Gay Related Immuno Deficiency, or GRID, I barely knew what homosexuality was. I did not personally know anyone who was openly gay. Tre emphasis was on “openly.” There were closeted gay people, I found out when I grew up. And now, I live as a grown up in a world where the word gay is not an insult or an accusation, but a statement of fact. I had watched a movie with my two new (I hope) friends, and I was sharing the benefit of my observatio here we are with gay people marrying, adopting kids, proclaiming their businesses are gay owned. So different, this brave new world in which we live. It’s a good thing, I casually, and rather pompously, pontificated. I can usually contribute my viewpoint in any discussion about issues. I regarded the people around me as

The good thing was that I have no prejudices in this area (lots of unanswered questions, but no ill will). Lucky for me because I would have felt like more of a fool than I did when I discovered, in this casual conversation, that my two male friends were once married to each other. And they were both HIV positive and proud that the virus was undetectable thanks to treatment. HIV was not an issue. It was part of my life, and that was definitely different.

I was surprised, and I don’t think I hid it well. But I did not need to hide my surprise bc there was nothing wrong with reacting to a significant development. I did not think I needed to pretend I did not notice or was not impacted, the way people do when they make ridiculous statements like “I don’t see race.” I did feel a bit like a fool but that was appropriate. How much worse would it have been if I had expressed some form of ignorance? It’s good when you’re being honest and honesty does not hurt you.

I waited to feel something… like a shift in my feelings, a decrease in my good will. I imagine they were looking at me to see if they detected this shift I me. I waited for the almost physical sensation I get when something happens that kills my affection for someone. I felt… nothing. No shift. The new information that my gay friends have HIV did not seem to change my feelings toward them one way or another.

That was the best thing of all.

It’s good when you’re being honest and honesty does not hurt you.

Caroleena

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