Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-03-16



Sweet Sixteen
by Sanford Gaylord

This article shared 3061 times since Sat Oct 1, 2005
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

'Each morning I open my eyes is a miracle. The blessing of opening them is temporary on any given day.' — From the poem Cordon Negro, by Essex Hemphill

Living long enough to make it to the age of 16 is a miracle for some people. Although turning 16 means you are still young, it is still a landmark birthday for most young men and women. My Sweet Sixteen has happened twice in my life. Both times, it has been a bittersweet occasion and milestones.

When I reached the age of 16, some 26 years ago, I was escorted from my home because my parents minded my admitting and wanting to live a 'homosexual lifestyle.' The second time I celebrated my sweet 16 was this past Aug. 16, 2005, when I marked 16 years of living with HIV. Every one of us was made to suffer, made to weep. With any journey, there will sometimes be pain, pleasure, sorrow, and successes. I do not regret either event because it has made me a stronger person.

Testing positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was the worst thing in the world that I thought could have happened to me. It was also the best thing in the world because it, in time, saved me from some very self-destructive ways. I was 24 when I got the news. At the time when my doctor called me on that evening, he expressed that he was sorry to be calling me so late but my results had come back positive for HIV. A cold, numbing feeling went from the receiver and traveled throughout my body. I took the test two more times to make sure. They both came back positive. I had to accept the truth; HIV was not just a gay white male disease.

The doctor advised me to get my affairs in order; that I should either get myself into a clinical trial or start taking a new drug called AZT to prolong my life. Years later I discovered that 1989 was the last year that white gay males topped the statistics for incidence of HIV cases in Chicago and that men of African decent took the title. The unwelcome news of testing positive for HIV, which I later called Mr. Death, increased my sipping of vodka and sniffing of coke, which became my sole pastimes, leading me away from my pain, my reality, and numbing me into my own slow suicide. It took some years to pull it together.

Outpatient therapy for HIV and substance issues helped me deal with some of my demons. I eventually decided to claim life after diagnosis and worked to make all my dreams become realities. I started college at the age of 28 and completed my undergraduate degree at 36 after attending school part-time, working full-time in the field of HIV/AIDS, and becoming a working actor and writer.

HIV has enhanced my life because it made me want to make the most out of life. I have become more of a miracle than I ever thought I would or could be. Being a man of African decent living over 30 with or without HIV is rare nowadays. It has taken awhile but I learned to accept my blessings. The experiences I have endured have enabled me to become 'old wine in a new bottle.' I have the honor of calling myself a 'long-term survivor,' in my own personal war with HIV, or Mr. Death.

I have been a contributing writer for Windy City Media Group for eight years now, my first column, Haunted by Mr. Death, was published August of 1997. Since the start of the 21st century I've been haunted by my own words in previous articles about the growing threat of multi-drug resistant HIV and the possible end of a race of people of African decent.

In 2000, I devoted two columns to shattering the denial about HIV/AIDS in the African American community, 'Searching for Clarity' and 'A Point of Clarity,' in the May and August issues of BLACKlines.

In those columns I stated that too many of our people were in darkness, slipping in and out of denial while some chose to bathe within it despite the facts they were presented.

I have shared my own experiences as a man of African decent that desired other men intimately and sexually while living with HIV. When I decided to start taking medicine and had to learn to take note of the importance of taking Highly Active Anti-retroviral Therapy ( HAART ) , I wrote that over the course of a year I researched anti-retroviral therapies and went power shopping for a holistic approach in preparation for what I felt was to come at that time. Overcoming the fear of taking the medication that would become a daily ritual was ultimately my greatest challenge. Popping pills was a constant daily reminder that I was living with HIV. When I did take them, the food I took with them made me feel full, but the medication made me feel empty.

I followed my rituals with my regimen, adhering to its twice-a-day dosing schedule, believing that I would have to do this until there was a cure for HIV. Every three to four months I became anxious and fixated over what I affectionately call 'T-Cell Lottery,' wondering what the magic numbers would be for my CD4 and viral load count. There were times I dreaded going to my medicine cabinet or packing my meds for the next day's dose.

I am very happy to report that even though I started a HAART regimen Labor Day of 1997, because of good CD4 and viral load counts, my physicia nand I agreed to a structured treatment interruption. I have not had to take medication since Memorial Day 2001. Today I cringe when I hear that people think HIV/AIDS and the war on HIV is over or worse that it is a 'manageable disease.' The mis-education of our youth with an abstinence-only agenda until marriage, the exploitative anti-HIV drug ads that once flourished in some media, and an absence of accurate media coverage of HIV/AIDS reinforces this way of thinking.

Yes, HIV-positive people are living longer lives, and the progression to AIDS has slowed. However, the reality is that the rates of new infection are growing celestially, especially among people of African decent. And yes, people are still dying from AIDS. People of African decent are at greatest risk globally for HIV/AIDS and we have already lost more than was lost in the Middle Passage, or what some have come to call the Black Holocaust. There is still no place on earth that has reported a case of HIV that can claim that they have stopped the spread, only slowed its advance on humankind.

People are living longer lives because of biomedical and behavioral research of HIV/AIDS and anti-retroviral therapy that has advanced tremendously since the dark 1980s. What I have learned about the daily rituals with the regimen I took is that you need to be prepared and focused. You have to be a fighter in order to survive. You owe it to yourself to do some research and actively participate with your physician in your healthcare management. If there is a safe space where you can talk to other long-term survivors who practice daily rituals with regimens, treat yourself to their stories. Some of those warriors have many battle scars and helpful tales of war and survival. There is life after diagnosis if one chooses to claim it for themselves. It is a battle, but life in general is a battlefield for many people of color.

The war that haunts me even in the age we live in now is the one on HIV. This one is the bloodiest for me because it is constant and there is no foreseeable end. As a young adult, I was drafted and placed on the frontline 16 years ago when HIV invaded my body. I saw the true casualties of war as I lost one friend after another to HIV and attended tearless funerals that had fire and brimstone overtones that came from the pulpit. I have gone from youth to middle age with HIV inside of me. A daily battle that rages within that at times has me fighting for ground mentally and physically.

When you are at war, the last thing you would want to concern yourself with is being attacked by your allies or within your ranks. Under the Clinton administration, we were given tools that combated homophobia to a degree and at least some funds and acknowledgment that HIV/AIDS had become a critical issue. It took years after the discovery of the virus that we know as HIV to be acknowledged under the Reagan administration. It was not long after George W. Bush 'took' the office of President, that a statement was made that the Office of National AIDS Policy, which was created under the Clinton administration, would be closed. The announcement sent a message to the American people that AIDS was over and that was far from the truth, especially within communities of color.

Although a statement was released expressing that the office would continue under the Bush administration and that the statement was made in error, I never stopped wondering how much truth there was in the initiative to close the office in the first place. I also wondered what would have happened if activists hadn't gone on red alert and raised hell about the statement and implications behind such a move from a president with a Fundamentalist Christian Ideology.

This past June, the CDC released a statement that more than one million people are now living with HIV and this statistic was greater than ever before. Additionally, nearly half of those cases are people of African decent. The Ryan White CARE Act, the safety net for the poor living with HIV, is under attack by the Bush administration. Critical services could be cut. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the world knows how slow the Bush administration was in providing critical services, many of the people of New Orleans that are living with HIV are without the vital medicine that they need to allow them to continue to dance upon the earth. Thankfully, there have been pharmaceutical companies and other organizations providing the necessary medicine for them as they try to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives.

This year has been a bittersweet Sweet Sixteen. Some of my fellow people of African decent are still bathing in denial and this has to stop! We must become politically active and educate ourselves. We must go on red alert and raise hell! If we show that we don't care why should anyone else? We need to create a rippling effect of knowledge, love, and understanding for ourselves, our people, and especially for the generations that follow us all.

This article shared 3061 times since Sat Oct 1, 2005
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


Gay News

HIV/AIDS activist Rae Lewis-Thornton on her new memoir, 'Unprotected'
Emmy-winning HIV/AIDS activist, author, minister, political organizer, motivational speaker, life coach, jewelry designer and social media figure Rae Clara Lewis-Thornton's recently released book, Unprotected: A Memoir, is already a pre-release ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Dr. David Ostrow dies at 74
Longtime researcher Dr. David Gene Ostrow, of Chicago, died unexpectedly on Feb. 16 at home. He was 74. The cause of death was end-stage renal disease, according to the Tribute Archive website. Ostrow was born on ...

Gay News

LGBTQ Religious Archives Network holds 'AIDS, Activism and American Christianity' webinar
LGBTQ Religious Archives Network (LGBTQ-RAN) held an "AIDS, Activism and American Christianity: A Conversation" virtual webinar on May 5. The event focused on Christian activism during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s and ...

Gay News

Running squad 'Team to End AIDS' calls for participants to raise funds
-- From a press release - (Chicago, IL) Over the last 19 years, TEAM TO ENDS AIDS (T2)—the only HIV charity fundraising marathon team in the Midwest—has raised more than $13 million for HIV/AIDS awareness and direct support for those living with ...

Gay News

Book-signing for HIV/AIDS activist's 'Unprotected: A Memoir' on May 21
-- From a press release - "I had been torn apart by the doings of others and blamed myself for surviving to the best of my ability. It would literally take decades for me to understand that I was the product of what happened to me." Emmy ...

Gay News

Gerber/Hart announces change in leadership
Wil Brant is no longer executive director of Gerber/Hart Library and Archives. According to an open letter from board co-chairs James Conley and Kevin Nunley as well as Board Treasurer Becky Chmielewski, Brant "served in this ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Campus Pride, HIV and the military, IVF suit, Billie Jean King
Campus Pride—along with 36 other national/regional organizations such as GLSEN, PFLAG National and—requested that the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) incorporate non-binary students into ...

Gay News

Indiana Univ. to host inaugural national HIV conference
Indiana University (IU) will host the first IU National HIV Conference, "Stepping into the 5th Decade: Evolving Our Response to HIV," June 8-11 in Indianapolis. Hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity ...

Gay News

'It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful' explores art collective's part in HIV/AIDS activism
In Jack Lowery's book, It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful: How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight a Pandemic, the historian shares how the art collective Gran Fury utilized community-made propaganda to address the HIV/AIDS ...

Gay News

ONE Archives running exhibit of vintage LGBTQ+ activist posters
Los Angeles-based ONE Archives Foundation announced "Days of Rage, a web-based multimedia exhibit featuring newly digitized LGBTQ+ activist posters from the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries. The exhibit, which has launched ...

Gay News

National Black Justice Coalition honors National Transgender HIV Testing Day
-- From a press release - WASHINGTON, DC — Today, April 18th, is National Transgender HIV Testing Day (NTHTD). On this day, local, state, federal, and national organizations unite to recognize the importance of routine HIV ...

Gay News

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives holds 40th-anniversary event at Sidetrack
Gerber/Hart Library and Archives (Gerber/Hart) celebrated its 40th anniversary with a "40 & Fabulous! The Gerber/Hart Spring Soiree" benefit April 7—the birthday of one of the library's namesakes, Pearl Hart—at ...

Gay News

Legislation to increase critical access to HIV prevention meds passes Illinois House
-- From a press release - SPRINGFIELD — On April 7, HB4430—Increasing Access to PrEP and PEP sponsored by State Representative Kelly M. Cassidy—passed the Illinois House on concurrence with a vote of 72-30. This bill ...

Gay News

TPAN named beneficiary of Pride Night at Blackhawks game April 12
-- From a press release - Chicago, IL - TPAN, Chicago's own nonprofit that is in its 35th year of serving people living with HIV has been selected as the beneficiary of Pride Night at the April 12 Blackhawks game against the ...

Gay News

Federal court strikes down Pentagon's restrictions on military service of people Living with HIV as unconstitutional
-- From a press release - "The court ruled that the Pentagon's policies regarding service members with HIV are not only outdated, but unlawful, arbitrary and capricious, and unconstitutional . . . one of the strongest judicial rulings in over two decades ...


Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.