Monday, December 01, 2008

I've lost some very special people to AIDS. Among them:
beloved Terry Graves, my co-worker from the 1980's, at Davison's-Macy's(now Macy's).
You can read about my special connection to Terry, in the post I made previously at Lisa Allender Writes, which I have re-posted, below.
Wonderful, talented Ric Castillo, a fellow-student and colleague at USF, and one of the founders of "Broadway Cares", an AIDS-support group.
Many of the men I know--men who are vibrant, dynamic artists, poets, writers, actors--while not afflicted with AIDS, are HIV-positive, and these men are remarkably upbeat about their futures. AIDS is still a dread, deadly disease, but currently, it is a treatable disease. We are able to fight it, and one day, we'll be able to win.
God Bless All of you who are grappling with the HIV-virus which often leads to AIDS, and those of you who have AIDS, and all of you working to defeat HIV-infection and the disease of AIDS.
We'll get there.

Below, my earlier post:
Friday, December 01, 2006

December 1 is World Aids Day...
I am remembering a day, very long ago, when a dear friend of mine answered the phone at the place where we both worked, and returned, pale, and shaken.
I remember asking him "What is it?" He quickly responded,
"Oh, that was San Francisco."
"Oh--an old friend?",I asked.
"No, um, I gave blood when I lived out there, and um..."
"Well, you know that gay-cancer people are talking about?"
"I think so."
"Well, they said for me to get tested.That I shouldn't give blood, because they ran tests on all the blood donated, and it looks like I am positive for this thing..."
His voice trailed off, like salt through a sieve.
This was in 1984, when very little was known about the virus. I am not even sure we understood it WAS a virus...

Several months later, one of our managers at the same store,died of AIDS.He'd been positive for years, but not told anyone out of fear.I remember noticing little reddish spots on his hands,and one on his nose, and wondering what was wrong. Kaposi's Sarcoma,I later discovered...We went to a "party" for him, a wake-of-sorts with hand-holding, and candles lit, and stories about how creative Chuck was, and how fun he'd been to work for. And with.I wished I'd been able to know him longer.

My co-worker at the store-- my dear friend who'd lived so long in San Francisco-- he'd live several more years....He'd make a life of hard work at Macy's, and cocktails at brunch on Sundays, and catching a tan(it was the 1980's, remember)and seeing me in my first big play in Atlanta, and he'd tease me about the role I'd had--a rather crazy girl named "Ellie".
He'd smile, enthusiastically, at all our "regulars"--we'd served
The Indigo Girls at our little cafe'.We'd place bets, quietly, on who was straight. On who was gay. I surprised myself when I came out to more people at work. My friend knew I was Bi. He'd figured it out pretty quickly, really.
I left Macy's later on, when I got the chance to do more acting.
I stopped in at The Cellar at Macy's, Lenox Square, and he greeted me with that amazing smile, and that ever-present tan(even though it was then the 1990's!)
I had lightened my hair, had extensions at that time, and had a fabulous manicure.
"You look great, Lisa. Fabulous."
He talked about his boyfriend, and I told him we'd get together, soon.

I stopped in several weeks later.
A young lady I had not seen before called someone from the back of the cafe' to speak with me, when I asked for my friend.
"Um, when's the last time you saw him?" asked this stocky man, looking far too straight, and far too serious.
"Well, just a few weeks ago.Why--is...something..what happened to ..."
But even as I asked the question,I knew.

"I am so sorry." He said.

He explained he had not lingered.
He explained that he had passed after his boyfriend had.

I cried that night. Alot.

I tried to find a piece of paper that my friend had given me. He'd told me, last time I was in, that he thought I should have his nephew's name and number because "He's interested in theatre, in writing.I think you two would hit it off, Lisa."
I could not find that piece of paper, though I am notorious for not throwing anything away.

In the fall of 2003, I would hear a poet I'd met only weeks before, read a poem about various things--including a reference to "My uncle saved pills..."
And in the moment I heard Collin Kelley read those words, I flashed on Terry having told me "You know, I've thought of saving up pills, so when the worst happens, I could just take 'em and it would be quick."
The poem stayed with me for two days, when I called Collin to talk about writing, to get to know him better, and I mentioned at one point,"You know, that poem you read at Humpus Bumpus Books--it made me think of my friend, Terry Graves, that I used to work with..."
"What--What did you say his name was?"he asked.
I repeated my friend's name.It was silent on Collin's end of the phone.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Where did you work?" He asked.
"Macy's, at Lenox Mall."
"Oh my God."

In that instant, across many years, and even, his death, I had reached Terry again. And met his talented nephew, too.
Terry--- for you and all the boys, all the men, who left us too young, and too soon--- Thank You for your work, your kind words. And for laughter, too.
Posted by Lisa Allender at 8:40 PM 2 comments

Below, an update on AIDS in the world:

Governments tackle HIV stigma on World AIDS Day

– Governments across the globe pledged Monday to step up the fight against HIV, combatting the stigma associated with the disease and promising to bankroll treatment programmes on World AIDS Day.

US President George W. Bush was to announce his administration had already met its goal of treating two million people living with HIV/AIDS by the end of the year, while his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao visited patients with the virus as part of a government effort to fight discrimination.

In South Africa, the country with the highest number of sufferers in the world, the government was mapping out its AIDS strategy under a new health minister as part of a sea-change in attitudes from the ANC government.

South Africans held a moment of silence at midday (1000 GMT) as a mark of respect for victims of the virus which has affected some 5.5 million people.

Speaking at a ceremony in the eastern port city of Durban, newly-appointed Health Minister Barbara Hogan urged men to overcome their traditional reluctance and voluntarily test for HIV.

"We enourage all men, I repeat all men, to test themelsves for HIV to protect themselves and the people they love," Hogan said.

"We all know that together we shall overcome," she said.

In Johannesburg, the celebrated Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo also called for reducing the stigma still attached to the disease.

"HIV-AIDS has become a huge issue for my continent and the fight against it must be relentless and determined," Kidjo told AFP.

"There is a need in Africa to educate people on the the killer diseases and ailments such as AIDS, malaria, dysentary, cholera," said Kidjo, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

"It is pleasing to note that treatment for these diseases is becoming more accessible to people," said Kidjo.

Kidjo, who performed in South Africa on Saturday, is travelling to Dakar later Monday for a two-day musical campaign aimed at reducing the stigma of AIDS.

Hu's visit to a hospital in Beijing was also designed to strip away some of the stigma attached to the virus, following the launch on Sunday of a campaign being conducted with the United Nations to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.

"Stigma and discrimination are major obstacles in an effective response to AIDS," said Health Minister Chen Zhu at the launch of the campaign at the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium.

"We need to engage all sectors of society in China to combat these issues and work to stop the disease."

China has about 700,000 people who are HIV-positive, according to a previously released estimate by the Chinese government and UN health organisations.

However only about 260,000 have been officially identified as having the disease.

Meanwhile in Washington, the White House said that Bush's emergency plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR) had now supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for over 2.1 million men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS around the world, including more than two million people in Sub Saharan Africa.

The programme provides funding for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis treatment in 15 focus countries among the world's poorest, mainly in Africa.

"PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement.

Peace, kids.


Collin Kelley said...

As always, thanks for remembering Terry. He's on my blog today, too.

Lisa Allender said...

OMG! I'm headed to your blog, right now!Thanks for the thank-you, but I'm glad to be able to do it.

Pris said...

This moving I can barely find words. So many have died. More are dying. It goes on and on. I'm so glad you heard Collin read that poem.

Selma said...

I have lost a few loved ones to AIDS too. A dear actor friend of mine died when he was 30. It was over 15 years ago now but I remember standing beside his bed in the hospital, holding his mother's hand and feeling the crushing weight of grief as he passed. The worst part was that his father refused to come to his funeral because he was gay. I'll never forget the sadness I felt upon hearing that. Thank you for this very important post.

Lisa Allender said...

Pris--Thank you. I'm glad I heard the poem, too!I had met Coll's mom at his book release in Fayetteville, and shortly after that, he & I discovered our "connection", and he told me after he shared that with her, she said she believed Terry had made sure he & I would meet!
Selma--How sad, gosh. And only 30. nd his Dad would not come to his funeral? I'm glad you were there, to offer comfort to him, and to his mom.

Lydia said...

I love the story of Terry and your finding Collin after his death. Your friendships with them absolutely were meant to be.

Love, Evolution, and Resilience said...

Thank you for all of the moving reminders. We too have similar experiences here in my neck of the woods. Staying involved and active is so crucial today. I've been working with the Aids network here for almost fifteen years, (mostly on the Needle Exchange/Van Program), it's so easy to loose your luster, run out of fuel. Thanks for filling up the tank!

Lisa Allender said...

Lydia--Thank you for feeling that. I of course, feel the same way!
Love, Evolution & Resilience--Thank you for stopping in. And THANK YOU for all your work with AIDS.
I'll be posting an update on how that Prop 8 (the bill to ban gay marriage)passed in Califrnia, later today!

ButtonHole said...

What a beautiful story and connection. After reading Collin's wonderful poem, the comments directed me here to read more. I have a couple of friends who died of AIDS, too, early on, in the 80's, people I still miss to this day.

Lisa Allender said...

Buttonhole--Hi there. Sorry you too, have lost loved ones to AIDS.
I am grateful to have known Terry, and to become even closer with his nephew, Collin Kelley!
Thank you for visiting, and I hope you'll stop by again soon.I'm headed to your blog, now!