Photographer 4 describes himself as a “self-critical, critical thinker, who is smart and persistent.”
Isolation and self… In my job (as an educator), I guess I kind of think that my story doesn’t matter. It is other people’s stories that are important. So I guess it’s nice to say my story. So this is me, I was on my porch. It indicates my isolation as far as this is me in my work clothes, and this is what my life has become, facilitating the meaning of stigma with other people in regards to trying to identify what stigma means to me. A lot of times I hear people say, well, “HIV isn’t me and blah-blah-blah.” But, to me, HIV is me. That’s all I do. That’s all I think about. When I go home, I read articles about it. So it’s me all the way. Twenty-some years ago, I almost died, so this is all icing. And this is what I do for the world, for myself. I’m happy with where I am. Because, like I said, this is an extension. In my mind, in all practical purposes, I shouldn’t be here. So this is my journey. This is my journey now to do this. Most people are free to live their life and do what they want and seek happiness and seek to get away from everything. But that doesn’t seem true for me. It’s my duty, faith in humanity, in my own self to go down this road. And, unfortunately, in my mind, I walk it alone. There’s no one else that seems to understand my path. I’m on the last regimen available. If I screw up this time, I’m dead in a year. And so I have to give myself a shot twice a day, plus five other pills, and I have bruises all over my body, a constant painful reminder of the stakes. I try to turn these into somebody else’s good points to help others. And I talk to people all the time, and they tell me even when they’re on one pill a day regimen, they cry, this and that. And I think, oh, Jesus, you don’t know what it’s like. So I’m here, feet to the ground, working, just working it.
It’s nice to have that comfort… That’s my cat. She’s 16 years. But right now she’s healthy, and I enjoy the niceness of seeing a creature that doesn’t have to worry. I don’t think they worry, think about the future. They just live life, and it’s nice to have that comfort there.
There’s no free time… That’s my alarm clock watch… it’s just to show that my life is always time-based. I have to think about my meds, take them when I get up in the morning. It takes an hour for me to get my regimen ready to take before I get to work. I come home tired, and as soon as I get home, I start my regimen again because it takes an hour for my Fuzeon to dissolve everything. So it’s all time-based and alarm-based. And everything’s segmented out. There’s no free time. What is vacation? I never take a vacation, lay on the beach, forget about my life for a while. There is none of that. There never will be. It’s not just the meds. It’s the GI issues. It’s the fatigue. I’m diabetic. So it’s everything. People my age that I talk to, have the mindset that we are forgotten people. It is not a tragedy to find out you have HIV. I’m 60-something. I’ve lived for 30 years. If a young person that just gets it dies, then it’s a tragedy. They have not lived their life. Most of the programs are designed for people up until 60 or 65. Well, there’s a lot of people living with HIV who are older than that, but there are no government-funded programs.
All of the programs end at something.
My place of battle… There’s a lone streak in the vastness of the sky over bureaucracy. I go there to face the stigma of myself and others… They are promoting stigma in my opinion. The doctors are well-meaning, but I’ve seen too many let people die because they’re not paying attention to the individual. We’re just categorized. We’re cattle coming through … We seem to be invisible and growing more so every day.