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Thu Feb 4, 2016, 03:03 AM

Survivors of 1980s AIDS crisis reveal what happened to them

From the role of lesbians to the vanishing of whole neighborhoods, real LGBTI people share their experiences

Survivors of the 1980s AIDS crisis have shared accounts of their experiences.

As the UK celebrates LGBT History Month, users of Reddit revealed what it was like to be living in what felt like a constant state of tragedy.

Real LGBTI people remember the confusion, the lack of information, the lack of support from the government because of the suffering from the virus known only at the time as GRID (gay-related immune deficiency).

‘I’m a 62-year-old gay man. I thankfully made it through the epidemic that started in the early 80s and went right through the mid-90’s. You ask what it was like? I don’t know if I can even begin to tell you how many ways AIDS has affected my life, even though I never caught the virus,’ one user said.

‘By the early 80s, I had what I would consider a really large circle of friends and acquaintances and once the epidemic really started to hit, it was not uncommon to find out three, four or more people you knew had died each month. We set up informal and formal support groups to look after our friends who took sick. Feeding them when they would eat. Changing them. Washing them. Acting as go-between with families who “were concerned” about their sons, nephews, brothers, etc., but wouldn’t lend a hand to help because AIDS was, you know, icky.

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Arrow 13 replies Author Time Post
Reply Survivors of 1980s AIDS crisis reveal what happened to them (Original post)
Behind the Aegis Feb 2016 OP
Betty Karlson Feb 2016 #1
xfundy Feb 2016 #2
Behind the Aegis Feb 2016 #3
xfundy Feb 2016 #4
Behind the Aegis Feb 2016 #5
newfie11 Feb 2016 #6
Amimnoch Feb 2016 #7
Behind the Aegis Feb 2016 #8
Bohunk68 Feb 2016 #9
nadinbrzezinski Mar 2016 #12
closeupready Feb 2016 #10
stevenleser Feb 2016 #11
nadinbrzezinski Mar 2016 #13

Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Thu Feb 4, 2016, 03:32 AM

1. Thanks for sharing this article.

 

Young GLBT don't always realise how psychologically devastating the AIDS crisis has been, even for the survivors.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Thu Feb 4, 2016, 03:35 AM

2. Is this month being shared with black history month?

I'm sorry, as a gay man, I can't accept that. There must be a mistake or yet another attempt to tear us apart.

African Americans already get the shortest month of the year. Let's celebrate and learn about the breakthroughs AAs have achieved, including the first successful open heart surgery.

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Response to xfundy (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 4, 2016, 03:37 AM

3. "As the UK celebrates LGBT History Month"

Gay History month is October in the US.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 4, 2016, 03:43 AM

4. Thought so

That's why this post confused me.

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Response to xfundy (Reply #4)

Thu Feb 4, 2016, 03:47 AM

5. It is in the excerpt.

What wasn't is that this is a British online news magazine.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Thu Feb 4, 2016, 09:24 AM

6. I remember when AIDS first surfaced

I was a radiographer working in Petosky MI.
No one really knew much about it in the beginning. I remember doing a portable chest X-ray on this poor man in his room. I was gowned up with gloves and mask. Cassette also covered etc as no one knew everything about transmission.

Then the restrictions were eased to body fluids and patients were transported to the department for chest X-rays.

I have never felt so sorry for patients as these. Just walking past their stretcher I could feel the heat radiating from them.

Our file clerk was gay and we all loved him. He was moving to San Francisco and we tried like hell to talk him out of it.

I moved out of state soon after he left, hopefully he never caught it.




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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Thu Feb 4, 2016, 03:55 PM

7. RIP Corey Guillot, April 30th, 1988 Age 17.

 

I was born in 1971 in Louisiana, so much of the early tragedy of the 1980's I was unaware of, especially with Reagan and news ignoring the pleas of the dying.

Corey and I had been friends since Kindergarten. He was a great friend, and by the mid 1980's we were best friends. In 1986 he was my first kiss. I admired, and adored him. He was full of life, and was one who lived it to the fullest. He was fearless. In 1987, he started getting sick.. cold, after cold, after cold. Then the Thrush and skin lesions came. in December, just a couple of weeks before Christmas in 1987 he was diagnosed with Aids. His parents threw him out, and want nothing more to do with him, and he comes to live with myself, my mother, father and brother. He receives assistance from a group called Acadiana cares, and in March of 1988 Hospice care sets up in our home to help ease his pain. By the time Hospice came in Dementia had set in, and at only 72 pounds I could lift him from his bed with one arm. On April 30th of that year he drew in his last breath, only 17 years old.

When he passed, we needed his parents permission to make arrangements. Although they wanted nothing to do with him in life, they got a court order against me and my family, had his remains taken, cremated and buried in a secret, and we suspect unmarked location.

He was my first up close with this awful virus. Unfortunately he wasn't nearly my last.. but to this day still the one that hurt the most.

Every year I donate to Hospice care and Acadiana Cares.

It's a very odd feeling.. sitting here an typing this out. Although my family and close friends know this dark chapter from my childhood, I've never before felt either comfortable or inclined to share it with others.

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Response to Amimnoch (Reply #7)

Thu Feb 4, 2016, 04:01 PM

8. Thank you for sharing this story and your memory of Corey.



Sadly, this type of scenario played out all over the country, even into the late '90s before people, IMO, seemed to have a better grasp on the situation. To this day, I am amazed how an entire country "freaked out" over this health crisis but did nothing! Most were, of course, taking their lead from the "Great Communicator", that POS, Ronald Regan.

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Response to Amimnoch (Reply #7)

Mon Feb 8, 2016, 07:53 AM

9. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Brought back to me just how awful the treatment was of our brothers. My love and I had moved from Rochester in mid-1980 to the country. We still subscribed to the Empty Closet out of Rochester and began reading the stories that were coming out. We were fairly isolated at that point, even to the non-gay neighbors around us. We read in the paper of someone who came back from NYC and shortly passed away. My love recognized the name and said he was gay. The paper reported him as dying from a short-term illness, unspecified. A lady friend down the street worked part-time for Public Health and tipped us off to three others who had died or were in the process. While we were grateful that by luck, we had removed ourselves from the possibility, we also realized our commitment to our community and joined the NENY Aids Council and served in the local area. Have still done work with the council since then.

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Response to Amimnoch (Reply #7)

Fri Mar 11, 2016, 07:39 PM

12. My sincere condolensces

 

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Wed Feb 10, 2016, 03:56 PM

10. It pains me to recall how parents and siblings of many AIDS patients reacted.

 

I can't really reflect back on it and forgive. All I can do is resolve never to cross paths with any of those people today, or ever again.

I don't know if that makes me a flawed person. I think of myself as loyal to my friends, and part of how that comes out is to defer to my friends' wishes; since these people are gone now, I have no reason to feel that my friends (if alive) would feel any different today than they did then.

So much anger I have about those years.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Thu Feb 11, 2016, 01:26 AM

11. I think I have shared this on DU before but...

 

... the first time I ever met someone who was openly gay was back in around 1980, my mother took in a roommate to help pay the bills during a difficult time after she and my dad split. "Patrick" was a professional ice skater from the UK and I saw my mother and him every other weekend as my dad had custody of me. He remains one of the kindest hearted folks I ever met.

A year into college in 1987, I believe, my mother told me that Patrick had died of AIDS.

I remember as I became more politically aware later in life and reexamining past Presidencies and putting together Reagans inaction on HIV/AIDS and Patrick's death and becoming completely enraged at Reagan. It was an early lesson on how political policies can have devastating and very personal effects.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Fri Mar 11, 2016, 07:56 PM

13. Not a survivor, but a former medical provider

 

and we transported patients who needed extensive medical support to the ER. It was in Mexico, but the stories have been shared to me from American providers These stories, regardless of the law, were not that rare,

We were called to a home due to breathing problems. Ok, those breathing problems were due to advanced antibiotic resistant TB, in a patient who was emaciated (a skeleton, barely walking), and had carcinoma. He had advanced AIDS.

So after doing a physical, getting him on Oxygen, starting an IV, he was also dehydrated, we transported to the ER. This was to the General Hospital, where the fun started. You see, the medical resident, in whispers, told us he could not accept this patient.. why? the devil disease. So to make a long story short, and we had to jump over his head, all the way to the director of the hospital we got him admitted. It was a three hour fight, when an EMS crew became the ONLY patient advocate that man had ever had.

He was also terminal and he died overnight. We knew he was likely terminal due to the EKG, and by law we could not leave him behind either.

As I said, I heard similar stories. The fear among medical providers, especially early on was such, that doctors and nurses refused to take care of patients. After he died, the family invited us to the funeral. They said that we were the only medical providers that showed any humanity, to a brother, a son and yes a lover. So yes, this is the other side. The horror that many families had to endure. Doctors avoided these patients, so did nurses, and at times EMS crews.

I am proud to say that though my efforts we started universal precautions... earlier than most. Yes, those gloves cost money, but damn they reduced some of the very real fear medical providers had. And myself, I did stick myself with a needle once. It was not deep... and I had the fear of catching a slew of blood born diseases, not just AIDS, but thankfully that never happened. In ten years EMS providers can average 3 of these.

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