Aaron describes himself as introverted – but says “I don’t have to hide my true self anymore.”
Back towards faith… It was my neighbor’s tree. But I saw it, and when I was first diagnosed, I felt like I was dying inside. So, with all the colors of the tree and the leaves falling, it’s symbolic of how I felt when I was first diagnosed. It could be taken two ways. When I was first diagnosed, lack of faith. But as you get more comfortable with the diagnosis, and later on, you turn toward what religion you have. There’s a higher power involved.
Connection… When I was in college, I said that if I ever became positive, I was going to commit suicide. So, I was in my 20s, it was in the ’90s, before a lot of the medications, and HIV was still kind of a death sentence. And so, that’s what I was going to treat it as. Well, with a lot of the newer medications, and the fact that HIV is now treated as a chronic disease, and because of the fact that I have more education…
Once I became more comfortable with me being positive, I started collecting more art. It gave me something to do. These are actually fairly recent. The one on the right is from a local artist. Since he’s someone who’s here in the Kansas City area, it gave me more of a connection to the area.
Mask… So, when I was first diagnosed, I was hiding. I didn’t tell anybody. I kept it to myself for five years. I was afraid to tell anybody, I didn’t want anybody to know. And you know, I went to AA or NA, and I went home, and that was it for a while. Started my medications, and then I was sick a lot.
In the 12 years since I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve really overcome a lot. So, it can be daunting at first. I tell everybody. At first, I was very hush-hush. I pushed everybody away. I told my mom before I moved to Michigan. And I thought she was going to disown me. Because she stopped talking to me when I told her I was gay for almost a year. And so I thought, when I told her I was HIV-positive, that she was going to disown me. And she was fine with it. But we don’t talk about it at all.