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A Rennaisance of Hope
Jan 2, 1998

Dear Michael Shernoff:

I too am a person living with AIDS and have a healthy addiction to "The Body" web site. And although the majority of my reading is in the "Treatment and Answers—Medical section," Joel E.Gallant, M.D.,et. al.; I, however, and all of us living with AIDS , must take time for good mental health therapy in controlling what at times can be an overwhelming fear and depression brought on by our living with AIDS. I hear this fear echoed throughout my readings and would like to share my sentiments of gratitude to you and all at "THE Body,"forum, which is a most wonderful tool of love and compassion for us all.

I was one of the many who when diagnosed withdrew into a world of fear and hopelessness...I lived a bitter life of denial of my disease, and fell as so many of us gay brothers do into alcohol abuse. It is so sad that in my coming out years the only place for a gay young man to be with his peers, was for the most part, limited to the gay bar and sadly this still very much the same today. Although much has improved, with a better understanding of alcohol and its abuse, and most importantly with the ever increasing strength of gay pride. I wish that we, as gay men, would use more of our attributes in the creation of environments in our community with a deeper meaning portrayed than that of a bar or disco. I do not mean to say that the social gay bar scene for me has been a disappointment in my past; quite the contrary. It has enabled me with many blessings and fond acquaintances and many long-time friendships. But I feel there is a tendency to fall into the rut of the superficiality of that environment, and stop sharing and growing in deeper understanding of our humanity.

Living-surviving with AIDS has taught me many things, for example, the awesome strength and solidarity of the Gay and Lesbian people. What a blessing when we finally understand the message, and the beauty that it fell upon one the most compassionate, intelligent, and understanding society in our world today, and I am sure that this will be the case in many decades to come.

AIDS has also taught us all a lot about ourselves, and how we treat our brothers and sisters in their disease, as well as in their health.

I was diagnosed HIV positive in 1987. I ran from everything and everyone, including myself. On May 20th 1995, after years of living each day wondering when AIDS would strike its first blow; and on this day it did. Somehow I managed to drive to father's house safely that day, but the next thing I knew was waking up in a private room in the hospital. My loving father had been there with me all the time. My first knock at the door was cryptococcal meningitis; I had suffered multiple seizures. It was not until my hospitalization that I ever gave one once of thought to fighting this disease. Ironically I had mustered up the courage to walk into the local AIDS network a month before I ended up in the hospital. At the network, I was greeted and comforted by the director of case management, in what was what I would learn in a later time as my "intake."

So much has changed in my life in te past two and a half years since my hospitalization. An explosion of blessings have feel upon me. All this when I just decided to let it all go, and give it up. Today I am sober, and am back in school working on my college degree. There is a whole new me, and there still are many ups and downs on my emotional roller coaster, but now I control and accept them. There are times still when the old monsters, fear and depression, creep in— but now I know how to throw the switch.

When my depression became so unbearable I reached out for help. I knew that the real job would be mine, yet I also knew I desperately needed some professional help to stop my constant self denigrating attitudes.

There is a wonderful peace in serenity, and the peaceful feeling there is a "high" no substance can give. It is what has been referred to by many as "a peek at the kingdom."

For all the desperation some might associate with the tragedy of AIDS, in my mind, as a person living with this disease, I say this: AIDS has infected my body, and although I was very close to dying, this threat, this challenge, has brought me closer to a better life. A most incredible paradox!

"I will never forget' those who died that never got this chance of hope.

Sincerely, Donn K

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Dear Donn,

Thank you for you thoughtful and heart felt story. It is important for people to read stories that inspire faith and hope in the journey from chemical dependency, despair and depression to living with serenity and balance with HIV and all of life's difficulties. Especially now at New Years, it is good for all of us, both professionals and people living with HIV, to be reminded of the variety of messages contained in your poignant story. I am glad that you have found The Body's web site to be a useful and friendly place for you on your journey. That is exactly what we hope to accomplish. Thanks for letting us know that we are being effective.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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