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.