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Someone Saved My Life Tonight

By Philip D.

February 17, 2010

Of all the days to finish work early, why did it have to be this one? I now found myself with three hours to kill before I could pick up the results for my second confirmatory HIV test. Would I spend the rest of my life HIV positive or not? That was the question; and before long I'd know the answer. To really understand how I used the time, we'd have to flash back to August 1995.

It started out a perfect day; blue sky, a light breeze, and life was good. As usual my Wednesday morning ritual consisted of a large latte and the latest copy of the San Francisco Sentinel. I was headed home to shower for work and to read up on my friend, Robert. Well, maybe "friend" isn't the best word to describe our relationship as we had never met face to face but I did know some very intimate details about his life. As a weekly columnist for the SF Sentinel, Robert De Andreis shared with his readers what it was like being a gay man with AIDS in the very early 90s with a raw and no-holds-barred honesty that I found absolutely riveting. For more than 2 years, he consistently spared no detail while he described his day to day life as he faced mortality, relationships, experimental treatments and even his sex life. His wit and words touched me deeply and I couldn't help viewing those who were HIV+ with a newfound respect. That particular August morning, as I read his obituary (in the very same paper he wrote for), I felt a sense of loss like I had never felt before and I hated the disease that took my gay "brother," like so many before him. The irony was that on the opposite page there was a small mention of the "successful HIV cocktail therapies" that we now take for granted. I will never forget Robert De Andreis or what he taught me.

With those three hours, I found myself drawn to the Public Library to see if I could find microfilms of Robert's old Sentinel columns. To this day, I can't explain exactly why, I just knew I wanted to pass that time with the brother I never met. Guess I hoped I might find strength in his experiences. With a bit of digging, I was fortunate to find many of his stories. Most of them I remembered but some of them were ones that I had missed. Many tears and some laughter in the quiet of the library that night. He was a brave young man and I felt humbled reading what his life was like back then. I realized how truly lucky I was to be getting my positive diagnosis in the time of HAART [highly active antiretroviral therapy].

When I was first heard about the chance to blog for The Body, I thought, "Why would anyone want to read what I have to say? I'm just trying to get through this the best I can, like everybody else." But then I thought about Robert, helping those coming up behind him, and that he could have said the very same thing. Corny? Maybe but maybe not. But I feel I owe to myself and Robert to try.

This link will take you to copies of Robert De Andreis' final 21 stories. I happen to think they are his very best.

To contact Philip D., click here.

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A Positive Spin

Philip D.

Philip D.

After testing HIV positive in 2007, I promised myself that I would make something "good" from all that I was handed. From the very beginning, each time I was presented with an obstacle or challenge, I also received some help. Usually in the form of a person, sometimes an opportunity; but I have grown so much, it has made it impossible for me to call the past few years "bad." Although I've never written much of anything before, I have been so incredibly fortunate, I feel like I must pay it forward somehow. Maybe by sharing my experience, it will help those starting later in the game, on the fast track to HAART, or anyone that's feeling a bit isolated or "stuck" with their diagnosis.

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