Tell Us Your Stories

What is the story of AIDS in the District of Columbia? In the 25th year of the epidemic, treatment has improved, but the issues of social isolation and, often, economic instability remain. These 25 residents and AIDS workers shared their lives. Now share yours.

By Tanya N. Ballard |  November 30, 2006; 10:30 PM ET


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I'm still here at least 23 years after acquiring HIV, and it's painful to think of all of the friends, mentors, and loved ones lost over the years--years when I first thought the plague was coming to visit me, then years when I put my head down and hoped that it had passed over me, then years when I have lived fairly trouble-free compared to so many of my heroes. Our biggest foe has always been ignorance--our own ignorance about drug use, then the ignorance of those who fear us and the stupidity of a government led by ideology, not science and reason. Fight the ignorance, people! Roll up your sleeves for a vaccine trial or a medication study! Teach your children honestly about sexuality and protecting their bodies and their lives! And, brothers, treat your bodies as temples, not sewers!

Posted by: bigolpoofter | December 1, 2006 08:02 AM

I think that is a huge mis-statement. World AIDS Day is about bringing awareness to prevent future infections, but also about bringing the people we have casted out back into our community and into our families. Not everyone contracts the disease the same way, thus ignorance is our first battle. Rather then behaving ourselves, lets educate ourselves to change the future. Comments like that (directed and pointed) "you" statements that are judging will not change the world.

Posted by: AIDS Marathoner | December 1, 2006 09:55 AM

Okay, tell that to Ryan White who was born with AIDS. Also, that type of attitude is not helpful. This is everyone's responsibility, to support and join together, not to critize and isolate.

Posted by: | December 1, 2006 09:58 AM

As a teacher in Montgomery County living HIV positive, I thought today would be a good day to discuss World AIDS Day with my students. We had some good dialogue about stigmas, stereotyping and prevention. We MUST talk about this; it's just not going to go away on its own. Talk to your friends, parents, co-workers...anyone that will listen. Tell them your story and tell them to learn from YOUR mistake (if you in fact made one). EVERYONE HAS AIDS is the best way to think about it.

Posted by: Teacher | December 1, 2006 10:23 AM

I am a 48 year old HIV+ Gay male living in northern Virginia, and am open to everyone about my status. I feel truly blessed to be here, 20+ years after my diagnosis; with the exception of one, I lost every single one of my HIV+ friends I knew in the 1980s.

Unlike many others, I'm very lucky to have access to meds. Despite my resistance to almost every drug, my saint of a doctor has found a new, workable regimen. It appears to be working and there are new drugs on the horizon. Unfortunately, the side effects of my current regimen can be physically painful and mentally difficult, at best. No complaints, though; I'm a fighter and am determined not to let the disease get the best of me.

I get support from my HIV negative husband, my doctor, and a few close friends. However, now that HIV is reported to be "survivable", I find many people, including some friends and many co-workers, to be ambivalent towards those affected by the disease. Although you might not know it, the chances are pretty good that you know someone living with or caring for someone with HIV, and conditions in other parts of the world certainly cannot be ignored. Please consider giving your time or money to worthwhile AIDS support organizations, and try to show more compassion. Thank you!

Posted by: 20+ Years and still here! | December 1, 2006 11:28 AM

I am truly amazed by the strenghth and courage that those who are living with the disease have. I commend all of you for sharing and educating the world. I do not have the disease - but in the past I have engaged in risky behaviors that have put me at risk to contract the virus. Today I run a HIV street outreach program with teenagers trying to educate the community about the disease.

Posted by: Aaron | December 1, 2006 12:08 PM

What people don't seem to realize is that AIDS affects all of us. So treat everyone as you would want to be treated!!

Posted by: | December 1, 2006 12:41 PM

I just want to show love and support to the people with HIV, their families and friends. While I do not personally know anyone who has this disease...I do realize that it could have been me, a family member or a friend. Please continue to educate people and donate in support of outreach programs, housing, and counseling and prevention. Keep your head to the sky and help somebody in need.
Be forever blessed!

Posted by: Tia | December 1, 2006 01:38 PM

99% of AIDS of preventable. What's your problem?

Posted by: | December 1, 2006 01:45 PM

Yes much of the disease is preventable but let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I am sure that you too have made mistakes in your life. We need to turn around and embrace and educate to create change. You may not have to, but some must live with their mistakes for a lifetime.

Posted by: | December 1, 2006 03:03 PM

I am dismayed by the heartless, self-righteous attack on people with AIDS. How tactless, callous and politically charged. AIDS is more than a political-religious buzz-word. Some people make mistakes, others make lethal mistakes; some people are mugged, others are raped. What's your problem?

Posted by: anonymous | December 1, 2006 04:09 PM

Every year at this time I stop to remember my father who passed away due to complications from AIDS when I was a young woman. After many years as an AIDS activist and prevention educator, I'm now a mom, raising my dad's grandchild in his absence to be a strong, compassionate man in a world that tends to prefer men macho and willing to take orders. I want to raise my son to think for himself and about others. He already knows about how his immune system works, what to eat to stay healthy and what a condom is used for. But as a mom and a prevention educator I worry about the kids who aren't raised to think, whose parents believe their kids aren't going to have sex, or use drugs. Will the burden be on my son to act as their educator? Will my son feel ostracized for respecting his sex partners enough to insist on condoms? Will he succumb to peer pressure to act the fool? Will I have done my job right so he feels enough confidence to walk his own path on these and so many other issues?

On this day, I have so many questions, and so much hope in my heart for the future. Love you dad, miss you.

Posted by: Alexis Danzig | December 1, 2006 04:28 PM

It is wonderful to profile 25 people here on World AIDS Day.

I am well known and successful in my field, and am not open about my HIV status.

There are many people in our country are malicious towards gay people and the gay community. This evil has fueled more hatred for people with HIV that are gay. So I keep my status private.

In 1991 as a young college student I learned my HIV+ status. The doctor gave me a prognosis of 5 to 8 quality years, maybe 10.

I decided to live long and prove the doctor wrong. I only started the meds last year. I am no worse for the wear.

Every day I live with HIV, it is one of my greatest accomplishments. Since I keep it private, I think to myself "you are doing great" and pat myself on the back.

To those that are also with HIV and managing it, I want you to know, "You are doing GREAT and you are a hero. I know it can be hard, but keep it up. Never give up hope that you can succeed. I am living proof."

God bless all of us, and God bless you for doing your part to ease and end this affliction.

Posted by: SuperPoz | December 1, 2006 08:10 PM

My father died of AIDS after years of addiction to heroin, he used until the end. I never got to meet him face-to-face, but my love for him grows daily. I know it was the addiction, the disease of heroin that killed him and I can only hope that as he looks down on me from heaven he can appreciate me reaching out to him through my work with HIV/AIDS and Substance Abuse. I can't tell you the pain that I feel of not knowning my father and him passing away at such an early age, he was only 44. AIDS is very real and very painful and I hate it everyday for taking my father from me. I can only hope that the future of AIDS does not have the same results as the past. It is too important to get tested. If you know you have the disease it is your responsibility to tell others who you become involved with intimately and it is everyone's responsibility to know their status. God Bless you daddy.

Posted by: ADaughter | December 1, 2006 08:36 PM

Im very impressed with the work that the Washington Post has provided against the HIV/AIDS especially Jose Vargas thank you for that wonderful article. Please continue to bring awareness to this for I am to a living person living well and strong with the desease. I hope and pray that this nation and world will open their eyes about this pandemic and with people like you who are able to bring this issue to the frontline will one day be praise for all the hard work and dedication you have put into bringing awarness.

Posted by: Jose Trejo | January 4, 2007 11:38 AM

Loved your comments SuperPoz. I think yours is the right attitude towards the AIDS condition and you are the living and successful proof. Even though I am HIV neg. I had a boy friend POZ and struggled with him in getting adjusted to his changing treatment.This opportunity that life gave me has helped me to better understand the difficulties and hardships of having AIDS. And most importantly, how to provide help when it is needed. In my free time I work with a doctor and provide help support to some of his patients. With your permission, I would like to print your note and show it to some of my HIV+ friends.

Posted by: Josh Mark | January 5, 2007 10:33 AM

Society as a whole has and continues to put forth strong efforts on HIV/AIDS prevention by promoting safe sex and partying without the use of drugs and alcohol. These tactics sometime overshadow and leave behind the persons who are already living with the disease. It is my belief that if we as a society commit to a more significant approach of penetrating the core of the already infected people with HIV and AIDS, we can significantly reduce the number of new cases. Death is the number one bargaining tool used to promote prevention. Not practicing safe sex equals death. Using drugs and alcohol while participating in casual sex equals death, etc. These types of advertisements send a very judgmental and harsh message to the unfortunate ones who already have the disease. It says to them that there is no hope for a productive life or a life without ridicule and prejudices concerning their illness. These negative messages push infected people into denial and hiding. These people take the prevention words to heart and end up making bad choices for themselves as well as others in their lives by not disclosing their illness or not wanting to take the test to see whether or not they even have the illness. We have to do a better job of reducing the stigma that surrounds the disease. We have to be more kind, more patient and more loving towards the individuals who currently suffer from HIV/AIDS. We must not past judgment or question how they got infected, because ultimately, regardless of how they got it, they have it! People with HIV/AIDS must not be led on to thinking that they are marginalized in our society due to their illness. I would be willing to talk to anyone who feels inferior to a healthy individual in society because of his or her illness. I would say to him or her, "Stop beating yourself up and use all of your energy to survive and move forward!"

Posted by: Yellow Phoenix | January 6, 2007 05:08 PM

first of all, thanxs for all comments and suggestion for me give. I HIV test on january, the result is HIV negative this means in not live hiv but, this is not for ever becuase the another mistake is change this results. so, what shall I do forever live by this results?

Posted by: asemamawe | January 10, 2007 10:53 AM

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