Messages from the Inside
A Prisoner's Story
I'm an inmate with HIV servicing a lengthy sentence. Sure, Im from N.Y.C. where I engaged in promiscuous sex and drug abuse. I was incarcerated in the middle 80s and decided to get tested in 1991. I had an idea I was positive and sure enough I was. Who is to say when I really got infected, so one has to say that there is a very good chance that I was positive way before being tested. Im not concerned with how, just the fact that I am.
So immediately I was put on AZT, as that was the only drug available. Several years later with the advent of protese inhibitors (PIs), I was put on combination therapy or cocktails. I must admit Ive been through just about every drug approved. I never suffered an opportunstic infection. Right now Im on Norvir, Sustiva, Combivir, Crixivan and vitamins C and E. My viral load is below 500 and my t-cell count is 400. Now, sure, I suffer from the common side effects, notably the "Crixbelly" (lipodystrophy) and neuropathy.
In prison, we suffer many problems and the biggest one to me is that we have no say so in what types of medications are better for us. The general attitude is: "just take this" and they adjust it according to the results of periodic blood tests. I really did not expect them to treat us as humans. You might come across a "nurse" who seems to care every once in a while.
Then we need better release services. I am only aware of very few agencies that help with direct release housing and medical attention. I, for one, will be released next year and this is a major concern of mine. I scan the several magazines with this information hoping to connect with one of these agencies before, not after, that time. [Note from the Editor -- A forthcoming issue of Body Positive will be featuring the issue of release from prison.] Sure, if possible, Id like to work -- that is, if Im still healthy and able to at the time of my impending release date. Then we come to the part about trying to find some kind of network that can deal with people who are HIV+ people in the so-called free society.
In my opinion, the personal ad sections are a major joke. I say this because after following these ads I find that people out there are looking for pretty much the same thing that we are looking for, but when I see what we are looking for, most ads include no "prisoners, drug users, etc." need respond. I often wonder why these same people say that they are loving, caring, compassionate etc. Maybe Im missing something, but I think not. So upon my release, Id like to be able to dispel some of the rumors that we had to deal with while being incarcerated. Id like to find a mixed support group too.
So, for now I continue to write and seek out agencies who can assist my many needs. If there is anyone out there who could assist me please contact me through Body Positive. Thanking you all for cooperation.
-- D.S. (An Inmate in NYS)
Dear Body Positive:
I want to start this letter by telling you briefly who I am. I am a 39-year-old PWA who relapsed on street drugs 3 years ago while under hospice care. I had basically given up on living. I have been dealing with all the BS of this disease since 1984. The reason I am writing you is to thank you for what you have done for me. I placed an ad in your positive personals, only received one response. That response arrived here by the grace of God. My ad was from one institution and when the letter found me, I had been moved to two others. Anyway I wrote this story as an assignment in my "Dancing Inside Out" class. We were told to write a magical story.
This was and is an actual true story. You see I was diagnosed with AIDS 16 years ago. Relationships are always difficult due to this factor. It is always a struggle for those who are negative to truly understand. On a whim one day, I placed an ad in your magazine for a positive partner. I had forgotten the ad completely because a year had gone by. At the beginning of 2000 I received my first and only response. Craig is my knight in shining armor. Weird as it may seem we are in love and are recently engaged. My release is November 2001 and we are planing our lives together. We are soul mates. He is definitely God-sent. One day soon our dreams will be our reality.
Thank you for reading this letter. Your magazine is always asking for people to write article etc. Here you are! I hope you will publish this because it has hope written all over it. Thanking you in advance.
-- Lorenza Miner
I want you, the reader to take heed to what Im saying. I dont want to you to experience the hardship I have had to go through in dealing with sex, drugs, alcohol, AIDS, and prison!
I have been HIV-positive since 1989, and today, twelve years later I have full-blown AIDS. 95% percent of my immune system is gone, depleted! Everyone does what he believes is his best interest. Today I am writing you out of a heart of love and sincerity.
I am being subjected to an extreme and stressful environment with officers, offenders, some staff members, and others who are sick mentally, hateful and evil within this unfair, double-standard justice system at this prison in the Department of Correction.
Through it all, to have learned that I have the virus that causes AIDS, living in my body drove me to the lowest and deepest level of negative and corrupt form of living. I became lost and confused in 1989 at the age of 22.
I am speaking out to the young adults, as well as my peers, only to encourage them not to live as I once did. The sex, drugs, alcohol, and being rebellious towards others certainly is not worth it! Please hear me out and take heed to what I am saying, please!
I found myself homeless! I turned to alcohol and drugs to help me deal with and maintain what I felt was a sensible outlook on life. This lead me to live a life full of hell, and full of crime! I seemed not to care about myself anymore. In the past the best way to handle my fears, loneliness, and depression was alcohol. I turned to alcohol to help me forget about myself and my problems, but that only lead me to jail whenever I would have to drink.
Growing up as a young man in my teens, I was rebellious towards my mother and father. I would not listen to them when they tried to give me good sound advice concerning sex, drugs, alcohol, and crime. As a result, at a young age I hung out with the wrong crowd, started smoking cigarettes and later, went on to drinking alcohol and staying out late at nights.
I graduated from drinking and smoking cigarettes to selling and doing drugs. This made me feel like I was cool. Today I realize I was a fool and not cool. I wanted to fit in with the crowd. I was mostly pressured by my so-called friends to do drugs and drink alcohol with them -- and so I did!
I became a sexually promiscuous person. The alcohol and drugs led me to have unprotected sex with all sorts of females. The phase, "Did you know that when you lay down to have sex with someone, you lay down with everyone that person has had sex with" is true!
I am speaking out to the young adults, as well as my peers, only to encourage them not to live as I once did. The sex, drugs, alcohol, and being rebellious towards others certainly is not worth it! Please hear me out and take heed to what I saying, please!
I sincerely thank you for time and attention in this urgent matter. May God bless you all.
-- Undra C. Fulton
Back to the March 2001 Issue of Body Positive Magazine.
This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.