United States

Diagnosed hiv+** in 1986. Scary years. There was very little known then. No medical guidelines, no treatment at all. Fear was rampant among the public and even among many health care providers. Myths and hysteria made it reasonable to keep one’s status secret, even from friends and family. Me too. People lost jobs, health insurance, family and homes because of fear and discrimination. Even my eating utensils were kept separate from others. Tears, sweat, even hugging were all suspected of possible transmission, until proven otherwise years later.. Survival beyond a few years seemed highly unlikely. Most people affected gradually became extremely thin, developing the “wasted look of aids”.
The many ways people suffered before dying were all painful and humiliating. Any medical care was done with “blood precautions” and isolation; posting bright red signs on the door to one’s hospital room. Suiting up in plastic gowns, gloves, face masks, even booties was recommended. We were “untouchable”to those who were not affected .I can not compare this to any other illness in history. The extra burden was that many believed that PWA, or PWHIV diserved to suffer, because they did one of several taboo activities- either men having sex with men, or using intravenous needles to inject drugs, or having sex with the wrong person. The few “innocent victims” were children born with hiv from birth, or those unlucky few who had recieved blood products as treatment for another illness. I know of many women who contracted the virus from sex with their own partners or husbands who had been guilty of any one of the other activities. So guilt by association… 


(the blood test was called HTLVlll at that time. Later named hiv.)

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