An Intimate Conversation

25-Year Old Copes With HIV


Editor’s Note: Hello, readers! Those of you who read my interview with Jack Mackenroth may recall that I mentioned a recent conversation with an HIV positive friend. Said friend told me that he admires Mackenroth’s bravery in telling the world he’s HIV positive.

Though he’s not personally ready to reveal his identity, my chum agreed to a taped conversation, which I’ve since transcribed, edited and posted after the jump. As a little context, my friend’s moving from Los Angeles back to his parents’ home.

Read the conversation, think about it and consider how you can avoid finding yourself in a similar situation, ie: use condoms and don’t shoot drugs – or at least use a clean needle!

Also, I’ve included a few HIV/AIDS awareness commercials from all over the world. The one you see above comes to us from Estonia circa 1990 or so. It’s queer.

Andrew Belonsky: Hi, friend! How are you?

Ryan C: Things are crazy right now.

AB: Packing up all your shit?

RC: Yup, shit packing.

AB: When are you going back home?

RC: Thursday.

AB: How are you feeling about moving home?

RC: Good. Okay. It should be fancy, at least: nicer than here, where I’m poor.

AB: Right. Being poor can really hinder people’s experiences. Okay, let’s go back to – what was it? – over a year ago: when you found out you were HIV positive. I know we’ve talked about it, but let’s talk about it again. How are you feeling since then?

RC: I’m okay. I think what is interesting about the way it’s handled in this country is that there’s so much talk about getting tested and finding out and all these MTV commercials, but then there’s nothing that talks about what happens after you’ve gotten tested. What about that huge percentage of people who are positive? That’s what prevents people from getting tested: they don’t want to know the bad outcome. We as a society aren’t doing anything to help people who are positive. How are we – we’re on this big witch hunt, kind of…

AB: After people find out they’re positive, it becomes this –

RC: Stigmatized.

AB: Yeah, to a degree. It just seems like it’s put into this box of privacy, you know? It’s like you have to come out again.

RC: Yes, yes, definitely. Absolutely. But I think it’s still kind of funny how there are all these commercials about getting tested, but that’s such a small, tiny part of it. It sucks. Society thinks they’re doing a good thing – preventing. It’s all about preventing AIDS, but then the cases that already have it, what, we’re just fucked? We’re the bad batch?

AB: Is that how you feel?

RC: Kind of. I definitely feel forgotten or left behind a little bit. I don’t think that I’ll ever feel as good about myself as I did before – ever. I’ll always feel that everyone else has a one up on me – a leg up.

AB: [Laughs] That’s ridiculous. There are so many people who are worse off than you, don’t you worry.

RC: I know, but if I were paired with a similar opponent I would always – I’ll just never feel like I was before.

AB: In social context?

RC: I just never feel confident about myself.

AB: How can you change that?

RC: I don’t know. I think being in the dating world right now makes it a lot worse. I think everybody’s self-esteem is off when they’re in the dating world, but it’s worse for me. You know me, Andrew – I’m an okay looking guy –

AB: You’re very handsome!

RC: I don’t necessarily have it as bad as some other people who are HIV positive. I’m hoping that I’m going to find a guy who’s going to look past my HIV and into my looks! [Laughs]. To look past the HIV and not have much else there – I feel like that’s really tough.

AB: You’re too much!

RC: I think I’ve learned that I attribute more of my problems and issues to the HIV than necessary. I have some guys who haven’t called me back and I haven’t even told them. It’s kind of nice to have that experience than have it be about the HIV. I feel better about that. It makes me feel good because it’s like –

AB: “It’s just me, not the HIV!”

RC: Exactly! It’s just me.