About two weeks ago I had an amazing time talking to a class about 100 students about my life living with AIDS. All I can say is I so can't wait to do it again. I don't know who had the better time that day the students or myself. I thought I'd share with you the the speech I gave. It is my story with more to the story which I haven't revealed to my readers. I hope you enjoy reading this speech.
Hello my name is Mikey and I’m a person living with AIDS standing before you to tell you my life story. I was born in Lancaster Pa. and my family would be considered upper lower class. My father worked at a watch dial factory and my mother was a stay at home mom whom sometimes had a part time job to help support our family.
When I was a child say between the ages of 6 to 8 years old I knew I was different. I was attracted to other boys but didn’t know what the term “Gay” meant. Back in the late 60’s early 70’s there was no internet to research boys liking boys and I couldn’t tell my parents my feelings. It wasn’t until they asked me at a later time if I was gay and I told them yes. If they were big enough to ask the question then I felt they were big enough to handle the answer.
I was an average student in high school. I joined the gymnastics team and became co captain my senior year. In school I was picked on for being short and was called fag and faggot a lot. After I graduated I stayed in Lancaster for a few years working and then ended up moving to Harrisburg with a friend. I couldn’t find any decent work there that paid and needed money. I finally ended up traveling back and forth to Baltimore where I worked at a gay strip club. The commute was too much and I ended up moving to Baltimore where I met my partner Matthew for nine years at the club where I was working.
Matthew and I moved into with each other and both of us really wanted to move out to California. In June of ’97 Matthew received a job offer out here. We had to pack up all our belongs and be out here in California within a week’s time so he could except the job offer. So both of us moved out here to California with me thinking we were the happy couple and would be together forever.
About 9 or 10 months after we moved to California Matthew broke up with me dating and bring other men back to our home. After awhile I started to date also and Matthew and I lived together for another 7 years until I became sick.
I started dating a guy from the Monterey. I will call him James. I am not really sure if it was James that infected me, but Matthew and I both think it was him. I was totally infatuated with James. He was nice, kind, big hearted, and drove a Porche. He and I had the best sex in my life. Yes we had unprotected sex, but before we did he told me he was negative before we did. I knew I was negative also at the time, (from what I knew of him at that time I didn't think he would lie about his HIV/AIDS Status) I do have to admit some of it was substance enhanced with Meth and poppers. Whoever did infect if it wasn’t James didn’t tell me about their HIV/AIDS status or didn’t know they were positive. One in four people who have HIV/AIDS don’t know they have the virus. I was in the one in four percentage. Now I never shot up, but I did like to smoke. No I was never addicted to drugs as some of you might think. I put up so many barriers and limitations for myself so I wouldn't get addicted.
After we broke up, I was tested for HIV again, and the test came back negative. Little did I know at that time the virus was taking hold of my immune system. That was in 2001.
As the HIV/AIDS virus took hold, I just didn't feel like going out and doing things on my days off. I just wanted to chill in front of the television and relax. My whole life was about working and nothing else. No sex, no entertainment nothing but working, sleeping and eating.
Three years went by and my boss at the time said to me one day "Are you working out or something because you are losing a lot of weight." Little did I know at the time I started to go into what is known as "waisting." I was having these aches and pains and like most people I was thinking "It's just from getting older."
In the beginning of the summer of 2004, I remember something coming out of my mouth. It was a piece of thrush (I didn't know what thrush was at the time). I checked my mouth to see if there was any more in there and there wasn't so I thought "Ok it just some weird onetime thing my body was doing." I never told anyone that I found that piece of thrush until at that time. I didn't know all the symptoms of HIV/AIDS and later I found out the list is as long as my arm.
So September of 2004 comes around and I look like a walking skeleton. Matthew and the people I'm around don't say anything about the way I look, or they were afraid to mention anything to me. I am trying to work, but I had to call in sick a lot and was maybe be able to do 10 hours of work a week.
My weight is down from 140 pounds to about 110 pounds. The thrush had completely taken over my mouth and is partially down my throat. In fact it so bad it is growing on the outside of my mouth. It was very hard for me to talk, let alone eat, and drink anything. When I would cough, big chunks of thrush got stuck in my throat. I had a towel by my bed so when I coughed up the thrush I had something to spit it into. I hid that from Matthew at the time so he wouldn't worry.
I couldn’t pay the rent now form being so sick. I didn't have health insurance for my job didn't offer it, (I was working for a nationwide sandwich chain). The county refused to see me because I couldn't afford the co-pay they wanted due to being so sick, and couldn't see a doctor because of finances and no insurance.
Finally, Matthew asked his doctor in S.F. about what I was going through, and Matthew asked me if I was tested for HIV/AIDS. I said not lately, I haven't slept with anyone since May of 2001. Why would I need to be tested? The last test came back negative.
So on September 30, 2004 I tested positive for the HIV virus. One week before my birthday. When the person told me I burst out into tears right there at SCAP free testing site.. So after I was tested Matthew had himself tested to make sure he wasn't positive since we lived together. He was and still is negative to this day. That night I cried myself to sleep thinking I'm going to die in a few weeks.
So Matthew's doctor tells him I should try to sign up for ADAP (AIDs Drugs Assistance Program). After I tested positive, now the county wanted to do all they could for me. One day before my birthday I see a county doctor. He is asking me all sorts of personal questions I wasn’t ready to answer . He thought I had known I was positive for awhile, I am thinking he's a cold hearted bastard who doesn't care. Again I burst into tears in the doctor’s office.
On October 20 of 2004 I received my first lab results. My viral load was 551,221 and my CD 4 aka as T cell count was 65. Yes, I found out I had full blown AIDS. Again I burst out into tears in the doctor's office. For those of you who don't know the standard right now is anything above a 200 count you have HIV+, anything below that you have full blown AIDS. Even if your T cell goes back above 200 you are still considered a person living with AIDS.
I still can't pay any rent due to not working and my benefits (Unemployment) have not come in yet. I could barely walk to the end of our driveway and back without being exhausted. About two weeks later, someone shows up at the front door. I answered the door and a person hands me an eviction notice from the landlord. Later I found out Matthew told that landlord I was dead. He was quite shoked when he saw me alive and well. Frankly I think I look pretty damn good for a dead person. About this time I started my cocktails.
The Sunday or two before we have to be out, I had to go to the emergency room. I was trying to drink and eat but things are only going half way down and coming right back up and out. I had to have three IV's bags of saline solution to rehydrate me. It seems I was allergic to one of the meds in my cocktail. I couldn't get a hold of the county nurses or the doctors at the time because it was a weekend and the ones on call never returned my messages. I have stopped taking that med and if I do take it again it will kill me.
So the week of Thanksgiving that year, I am made to pack up and move all our belongings with Matthew. Matthew was going to live with at that time with his so called boyfriend. So now I am thinking I am going to be out living on the street.
I thinking I’d be homeless The Santa Cruz Aids Project was able to put me into a HIV/AIDS support house. I lived in that house until the first of February of 2005 when I was evicted again for my benefits had ran out and no one would employee me. After that I lived in another HIV house transitional which this time was run by SCAP till the end of January this year.
I truly feel that the Santa Cruz AIDS project saved my life and I try to give back to them as much as I can. I try to volunteer for them as much as possible. I’m here today speaking in front of you today for them.
My life has truly changed since I found out I have AIDS. Have seen the effects of the cocktails on my body and deal with their side effects daily. I try do out online outreach on the internet when I’m feeling up to it. I try to educate what it’s like for one man to live with AIDS. I am now at a point in my life where I want to date again and maybe have a partner and finding out that people (gay or straight) don’t want to have partner who has HIV/AIDS. They would rather stay ignorant then learning about safe sex which the Santa Cruz AIDS Project’s educational department strives toward. So I say to all of you in here today. Applaud yourselves for being the educated and learning about HIV/AIDS. Applaud yourselves for leaning so me like myself aren’t discriminated against for you are the future of HIV/AIDS awareness. Last thing I’d like to say is before I take your questions is… As a whole the general public is more dangerous to someone living with HIV/AIDS then we are to you.