How old were you at the start of the AIDS epidemic?
The AIDS epidemic was not in my perimeter when I was a child. I was not even aware of such a disease and it was something that I was completely oblivious. My parents never spoke of the disease and when my parents spoke about any disease, it was very hush.
How did you first learn about HIV?
I learned of the AIDS virus when I came out as a gay man. When I came out (mid 30’s), I was living in the Central Valley of California. I was only interested in my new found excitement of having gay sex. I had never had such enjoyment even though my life was in complete turmoil because I was married, had 2 children, church orchestra conductor and teacher! The men that I was having sex with, talked to me about the disease and my new found partner educated me regarding safe practices. He ironically, came down with the disease!
What does the 25th year of riding to end AIDS mean to you personally?
Riding my 4th ride (2018) will be very emotional for me.
I ride the ride for those that can’t.
I ride the ride because my former partner nearly died.
I ride because the pain of his nearly passing is still in my memory.
I ride the for those that should never ever experience what I did!
I ride the ride because AIDS is not a gay disease!
I ride the ride because I miss him and this is my tribute to our relationship.
I ride to express to the world, that people are people regardless of their sexuality.
What effect has the AIDS epidemic had on you or someone you know?
Because of the education of HIV/AIDS, my former partner has been able to live, he still is on his medications, and is considered undetectable, however, the mental trauma he suffered is still evident. He is able to work in a limited capacity and is able to live somewhat a normal life. We do stay in touch, however, our lives were changed forever.
Have you personally experienced stigma related to HIV/AIDS?
When I came out as a gay man, many people de-friended me from their life, especially those in the religious realm.
I was told I was going to become infected and my life was a “waste of space.” I went through terrible depression and tried to kill myself 2 times. I had HUGE internal struggles with religion, family, and what I thought were friends. My immediate family was a mess, and falling apart. I ended my marriage, divorced my wife and moved in with my partner. He was then diagnosed with advanced AIDS and was not treated until he was in AIDS dementia. The hospital did not have a diagnosis, until I asked them to test him for HIV/AIDS!!!!
What would the end of the AIDS epidemic mean to you?
The end of the AIDS epidemic would be a stamp of success! People would not have to suffer what I and many others are experiencing and for those that lived during the mass loss of life. That day, I hope to see and I can rejoice in the knowledge that I had a hand in the development of a cure.