Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Memoirs of the Passing, Part II

But not everyone is innocent, and shame is seldom unwarranted.

Take, for example, a man I know who recently revealed to me — in casual conversation, and very matter-of-factly — that he is (and has long been) HIV positive.

The news, I am sorry to say, didn't surprise me in the least. I like this man well enough — he is friendly in passing, but also very quick to divulge the details of his past in a way that sometimes puts me at unease... a past that involves a drug abuse (including heroin), and a rather carefree sexual existence in the 70s and 80s, devoid of any precautions and including a stint as a male prostitute.

[His details are far more graphic, but I will spare you those.]

And it's for those reasons that the news of his illness barely phased me. But here's what really bothered me: his clientale, he said, consisted primarily of married men — many with children. And even when his prostituting days were over, the majority of his one-night stands were with men in "serious," heterosexual relationships.

These were guys with girlfriends, he said. Guys who were generally more, eh, "adventurous" than the "out" guys because they wanted to make up for lost time.

I listened to these stories and asked no questions, though they occured to me from time to time. I didn't ask him if he continued having unprotected sex after his diagnosis. I didn't ask him if he'd done the math to find out when he might have contracted the virus, and contacted everyone who may have subsequently been infected. I didn't ask him if he'd donated blood or plasma or if he felt guilty about his affairs with married men, knowing that those men would go on to infect their wives.

No good could come from those questions, I decided, and even less from his answers.

So I listened, and nodded. I thought of Magic Johnson and the wife he infected from his heterosexual escapades. I thought of Elliot Spitzer and men at large. I thought of the other gay guys I know who take every precaution and lead very moral, clean-cut lives.

And I thought of my childhood friend, and wondered what he'd be doing today if he were alive.

[In case you wondered what started all of this.]


Workman said...

An amazing series of posts.

Thanks for sharing them.

Franki said...

Wow. That is a truly frightening story.

disgruntled world citizen said...

i agree with workman and franki. these posts have been amazing and heartwrenching.

Pamela said...

the child was a victim.
This man is a perpetrator!

Stacy said...