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Going the Distance

April 2001

Joe Monroe, whose art and writing have been published in the pages of Positive Living since 1993, is moving to Illinois to run an antique store. He submitted the following open letter to readers of Positive Living. Joe can be reached by e-mail at

Being diagnosed with HIV almost as soon I came to Los Angeles, HIV is all I have really ever known in my adult life.

There was a stretch of almost 10 years when I told no one, what I thought was a dirty little secret. Then the back of a Holiday Card I created for APLA in 1992 stated I was a "client" of APLA. There was no turning back.

I went on a whirlwind public campaign for people to come out about their HIV status. HIV and AIDS then consumed me and my career as an artist. Later I came down with encephilitis and was bound to a wheelchair for a period and then graduated into lymphoma, cancer and chemotherapy. The few friends I had left thought I was ready to kick the bucket. But a determined spirit and all the prayers I received wouldn't have it, so here I am.

I truly hoped becoming undetectable and active again that someday maybe the phone would ring and my "Art Market God" would sign me on. It never happened.

Maybe I haven't waited long enough or maybe the real reason I've done all I can do to bring AIDS awareness to the public has secretly been for myself as well as all my brothers and sisters living with HIV/AIDS. Hoping that somewhere along the line, a poster or a card or an illustration might jar the workings in a researcher's brain or touch the heart of a case manager so they might be more compassionate to their clients and also to me.

Being a client and a contributor at APLA has been one of the most important times of my life. And to all the other AIDS organizations, I could not have been so strong without your help. I think I've about donated to every AIDS organization in L.A.; if I've missed one, I am sorry.

A new paradigm seems to be working its way into the AIDS community. I pray the people still having problems are tended to in a manner that would keep the AIDS community proud to be a part of something much larger than we can ever imagine. AIDS is historic and one day we will be able to look back on all of this as a water-colored memory (isn't that from a Barbra Streisand song?). I've truly enjoyed working with all the AIDS organizations and may do the same in Illinois.

I feel that David Zippel's words in the song "Go the Distance" stands for all of us living with HIV/AIDS.

I have often dreamed of a far-off place
Where a hero's welcome will be waiting for me.
Where the crowds will cheer when they see my face
And a voice keeps saying this is where I'm meant to be.
I'll be there some day, I can go the distance
I will find my way if I can be strong
I'd know every mile will be worth my while
When I go the distance,
I'll be right where I belong.

Bye, everybody.

Joe Monroe

This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).

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This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Positive Living.
See Also
More Personal Accounts of Men With HIV