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Paul, Phoenix, Arizona

I have HIV; it doesn’t have me. Ironically, I owe HIV a debt of gratitude, because it could have very well saved my life—from me. As a young gay man I lived the fast life. I was always told I could go anywhere, do anything—the sky is the limit. In fact it was. I had no boundaries, no commitments, no requirements, and after coming out, no expectations. It started to seem as if I no longer existed. My quest to find acceptance brought me to havens at night that would never be associated with my life by day. Two lives, one person. By day I was an achiever, friendly, funny, entertainer, cowboy, horseman, trainer, instructor, corporate climber and, more interestingly, I worked for the medical examiner’s office on the humanities clean up crew, collecting dead bodies off the highway after accidents. Talk about coming face to face with your own mortality! But the higher I flew by day, the further I fell by night. HIV is humbling. It made me aware of who I am and how precious life, love, and longevity really are. My favorite quote and most important message is: “You can never touch someone so lightly as to not leave a mark.”

I have HIV; it doesn’t have me. Ironically, I owe HIV a debt of gratitude, because it could have very well saved my life—from me. As a young gay man I lived the fast life. I was always told I could go anywhere, do anything—the sky is the limit. In fact it was. I had no boundaries, no commitments, no requirements, and after coming out, no expectations. It started to seem as if I no longer existed. My quest to find acceptance brought me to havens at night that would never be associated with my life by day. Two lives, one person. By day I was an achiever, friendly, funny, entertainer, cowboy, horseman, trainer, instructor, corporate climber and, more interestingly, I worked for the medical examiner’s office on the humanities clean up crew, collecting dead bodies off the highway after accidents. Talk about coming face to face with your own mortality! But the higher I flew by day, the further I fell by night. HIV is humbling. It made me aware of who I am and how precious life, love, and longevity really are. My favorite quote and most important message is: “You can never touch someone so lightly as to not leave a mark.”

Gay in America