Author: Communciations

2004

When I was diagnosed with HIV back early in 2004, I was lucky enough to be able to avail myself of two of Positive Life’s programs for newly-diagnosed people – first Genesis, a weekend workshop, to help with the experience of a new diagnosis; and then later, After Hours, for gay men to meet to share information, and build support and social networks.

At the latter, our facilitator was Glenn (Flanagan), and I found him to be a very supportive person. In the course of our conversations, I found that he also edited Talkabout, the PosLife magazine, and he was always looking for both ideas and help with it. Getting involved interested me, so for the next few years I used to go along on Fridays and work on and off on the magazine with him, mainly editing.

I also used to write pieces for him, on a wide range of topics; Glenn would suggest what he thought would be a relevant topic for the readership at that time, and I was happy to do some research and write it up. Among such pieces were A Long Road Forward, on society’s progress in dealing with HIV; Growing older with HIV – well, it’s obvious what that dealt with; and Holding onto love … in an age of uncertainty, about how men in serodiscordant (positive/negative) relationships could take care of each other.

At a time when there was also much discussion about when to start on treatments, and if one should occasionally take a ‘treatments holiday’ – a hot topic back then – Treatments, and why we need ‘em looked at the latest medical evidence, and argued that it was sensible to start as soon as possible after diagnosis.

Another issue – one still very relevant today – concerned depression and its impact. Mental health: It’s all in the mind outlined what we could do to improve our mental state, and how this could help us deal with our HIV. As the piece finished,

… the benefits flow to both our mental health and our HIV situation. Some people have called it 'the power of positive thinking'!  

Another piece, Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art, looked at how people with HIV were portrayed on TV, of much relevance, given the important role that TV plays in helping form people’s opinions. It was a time when, in the USA, health advocates were actively involved in figuring out how to work with entertainment television, with the KNOW HIV/AIDS Public Education Initiative holding annual briefings, during which TV writers and producers were provided with real-life stories of people living with HIV/AIDS.

While the topics were addressed seriously, I could take a tongue-in-cheek approach, as with Let’s talk about SEX! It began

Now that I have your attention, where do we start?

But as it noted, more seriously,

There will always be issues that emerge when sex is concerned, and it is important to always differentiate between moral questions and public health issues here.

And it concluded:

But spring is now here, and as they say, “a young man’s fancy turns to sex”. So what can you do?

Start negotiating!

As you can see from those pieces, Glenn tried to address a wide range of issues that would be relevant to people dealing with their HIV. All the topics were relevant, but with a nice mix of humour and information.

My favourite was one supposedly written by my cat, Abdulah, about me, his human companion. Titled The joy of pets: My human companion, it began:

I know that it was my human companion, Garry, who was supposed to write this piece, but I asked him to let me do it, to give a perspective from the other side, on this issue of how helpful we are to each other in providing support and friendship.

I am a short-haired Black Russian, a cat, quite glamorous actually, and very chatty. And while he does appreciate that we were once worshipped as gods, that was a long time ago, and there is no use crying over spilt milk (well, there is, but it gets me nowhere!)

We have been together for just over three years now, and I hope it works out in the long-term, now that I have got him trained.

It included some complaints:

… the only time I get upset is when he takes me to the vet. All those dogs there yapping and barking, and the vet sticks this thing up my bum – to take my temperature, or something. I just grin and bear it!

Abdulah was a cat with his own definite viewpoint; as he commented,

He likes me to sleep over his feet, to keep them warm. It is a bit lumpy, but I am used to it now. He occasionally has a friend over to stay the night (not always the same one), and he shuts me out of the bedroom that night (but I peek in, and they are doing that thermometer thing too).

For me, my time working on Talkabout was one of the most rewarding and satisfying things I did in those early uncertain days of an HIV diagnosis. And so today, here I am again, writing something for Talkabout; they do say that life does come full circle.

2018

Garry Wotherspoon

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