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Taking Care of Hal

A Video Blog

By Mark S. King

November 20, 2008

10:01 a.m.

Greetings, my friends!

Years ago I worked as director of an agency for people living with HIV/AIDS, and although the work was satisfying, I was irritated with one principle of the agency: "You don't know what it's like if you are not HIV positive."

Really? It seems our caregivers get a pretty good idea. One of the most unintentionally hurtful things my brother Dick's late lover said to him, as my brother cared for him throughout his illness, was "you don't know what it's like." My brother had a horrific front row seat to his lover's disease and dying process. Isn't that close enough to understand?

This comes to mind because I've spent the last month caring for my oldest brother, Hal, in Michigan, as he suffered through the last of his chemotherapy for lung cancer. I've taken him to doctor appointments, watched over his meds, and lain sleepless listening to his late night coughing fits. I learned how to change the bandages from an open wound in his chest where his left lung used to be. I discussed with him his plans should his life expectancy suddenly shorten. Don't tell me I don't know what it is like to live with cancer.

My video blog below takes you to Grand Rapids, Mich., where you'll meet Hal and even my 102-year-old grandmother, who has her own opinions on longevity.

Caring for Hal also took me out of myself, out of my disease, and allowed me to focus on another person. This has been my gift this holiday: to be there for Hal and to put my own HIV infection into perspective. And what have I learned?

That my HIV disease, and HIV in general, is not so unique, as much as my self-centeredness wants to say otherwise. Those of us living with HIV are, however, uniquely qualified in one respect: helping others going through difficult times medically, regardless of the diagnosis.

If you are fortunate enough to be living in good health with HIV, here's a holiday suggestion for you: Reach out to those who might benefit from your empathy and compassion, whether it's a friend with HIV, a brother with cancer or someone elderly confined to a nursing home. You're qualified.

In the meantime, please be well.


To contact Mark, click here.

Episode Four: Taking Care of Hal

See Also
More Personal Stories of Gay Men With HIV


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My Fabulous Disease

Mark S. King has been an active AIDS activist, writer and community organization leader since the early 1980s in Los Angeles. He has been an outspoken advocate for prevention education and for issues important to those living with HIV.

Diagnosed in 1985, Mark has held positions with the Los Angeles Shanti Foundation, AID Atlanta and AIDS Survival Project, and is an award-winning writer. He continues his volunteer work as an AIDS educator and speaker for conferences and events.

Speaking engagements: Mark King is available to speak to groups. Contact Mark about speaking at your organization or event!

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A Place Like This by Mark King

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Interviews With Mark:

Mark King Looks Back at the AIDS Epidemic's Darkest Hour in the U.S. (May 14, 2008)

This Month in HIV: Crystal Methamphetamine and HIV (August 2007)

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The opinions expressed by's bloggers are entirely their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of itself.