Seeing a need among my classmates to learn how to dress for winter, I developed this guide for winter novices. It was published by HerCampus Magazine.
This story takes you into the world of Patrick, who contracted HIV in 1991 when the virus was a death sentence. Twenty-one years later, he is still alive. What was life like for him during the AIDS epidemic and what is it like now as the public has seemingly traded their red ribbons for pink ones? Read the excerpt.
Where did all the red ribbons go?
A turquoise Honda Civic pulls behind a thrift store and parks near a metal bin with “Donations” stenciled on its lid in white paint. The driver of the car gets out and pulls four brown paper bags from the trunk, and walks them two by two to the metal bin. He opens the lid and sees its already packed with other bundles of clothes, mostly men’s. He closes the bin and leaves the bags in front and drives off.
As patrons enter the thrift store, the stale smell of mothballs and dust mix with the voice of Annie Lennox, her song coming from the speakers in the ceiling. The racks of men’s clothes are laden with designer labels. Armani suits. DKNY cashmere sweaters. Hugo Boss jeans. Doc Marten boots.
A thin man pulls a t-shirt from a rack. It is a spoof of a RAID bug killer ad and reads, “AIDS, kills faggots dead.” He rolls his eyes, shakes his head and returns the shirt to the rack. He moves two aisles down and finds a Calvin Klein jacket and tries it on. The original price tag is still attached. $69.99. It fits him perfectly.
The cashier rings him up.
“That will be $5.25 with tax, please.”
At a party that weekend Patrick, a young man with dimples handsome enough to melt concrete, compliments the man. “Hey, nice jacket. Where’d you get it?”
“Oh,” the man nods casually, “DMC.”
It is 1991. AIDS is a rampant public health crisis. Gay men are dying everywhere, filling thrift stores with their high-end wardrobes, a phenomenon referred to as “DMC” for short; Dead Man’s Clothes.
Patrick was nineteen then, fresh out of Catholic high school where the priests held frank sex education talks and gave out condoms. The school understood that they were in the midst of an epidemic and preferred their students stay alive rather than force an irrelevant abstinence only curriculum.
During weekly confession in the cold damp church, Father Fete fished for details after Patrick admitted to swearing and having dirty thoughts, the standard sins of any teenage boy.
Father Fete asked about the dirty thoughts from behind the confessional lattice and Patrick would recite a generic fantasy about him and some girl rather than admitting to gay fantasies. Then the Priest would ask if the dirty thoughts led to masturbation to which Patrick would begrudge a “Yes.” Along with five Hail Marys and two Our Fathers assigned for penance, the Priest would slide a few condoms across the confessional saying, “Use these if it’s ever not masturbation.”
Despite all the education Patrick received, and the safe sex practices he employed, he tested positive for HIV in 1992.
At that time, testing positive for HIV was a death sentence. It meant one thing; you were going to die in ten years, period. Eight of those could be expected to be relatively healthy; the last two would be grim, dying slowly from some opportune illness, the flesh of your body wasting away revealing the striations of the tendons on your face and limbs.
Histoplasmosis, which is contracted from being around pigeon shit was a common killer, not because the fungus in the bird’s droppings is particularly deadly, but because the compromised immune systems of those with HIV/AIDS couldn’t fight it off.
A few months after his test came back positive, Patrick had a new boyfriend. When Patrick told him of his HIV status, his boyfriend said, “I hope I’m strong enough,” to which Patrick asked, “For what?”
“For your funeral.”
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