Randy Boyd found out he was infected with HIV on the night Rock Hudson announced he had AIDS.
"I was a 23-year-old, one month out of college," Randy remembers. "It was a very repressive time, but I was a kid and I had to get my nut. So I had sex with strangers in the dark. A few weeks later I started getting night sweats, although I didn't know what to call them at the time."
"I graduated in June, 1985," Randy says. "In July, Rock Hudson held his famous press conference with Doris Day. One of the experts they had on TV doing commentary mentioned that one of the first symptoms of AIDS is night sweats, and they come shortly after exposure. So that's how I found out."
In 1985, AIDS was a death sentence-there was no effective therapy available. Randy fully expected to die of the "modern day leprosy."
"I had no support, no one I could talk to," Randy says. "It was a crazy time, a very panicked time. There was talk about quarantining people with AIDS. All I could do was keep it a secret and hope it wasn't true. I would go to work, and everyone was talking about AIDS. I compartmentalized my life. I walked and talked like everyone else around me. But a part of me knew I had AIDS."
When he finally got tested, Randy's first course of action was to hold off on taking HIV drugs, which were still experimental. "It was still at a time when there was a lot of skepticism about the drugs," Randy says. "I didn't start using pharmaceuticals until about 1996, when they had more to offer. But I wouldn't be alive today if they hadn't come up with effective therapies in 1996."
Twenty-three years after he was infected, Randy is still alive and kicking. "It feels a little bit like being the only house that survives in a neighborhood hit by a tornado," Randy says. "Why am I still here as opposed to the guy who was sitting next to me in the doctor's office?"
Randy hasn't been wasting the time he has been given. He has a lot of anger about the hand he has been dealt in society as a black man, as a gay man, and as someone who is HIV-positive. As an avid sports fan, he's also angry at the level of homophobia in sports. One way he works through his anger is by writing, and he has published four novels so far: Uprising, Bridge Across the Ocean, The Devil Inside, and Walt Loves the Bearcat. All of his novels feature HIV-positive main characters, and they have been nominated for a total of five Lambda Literary Awards. You can learn more about his novels at www.randyboydsblocks.com
Randy's advice to those newly diagnosed with HIV?
"You have a choice," Randy says. "You can keep it real and adapt to a new life. Or you can stay however you are that got you this way, and probably not have a very happy and rich life."
"The whole world is about adapting," Randy says. "If you have to cry, cry. And then make a decision. Do I want to live? How do I want to live? What HIV does is bring you face-to-face with your own mortality. It gives you that "deathbed perspective" a little sooner. When your time comes, what will you look back on and say, 'I should have done this, or I should have done that?' Do it now!"
"Yes, I do have a lot of anger and bitterness in me over the way the world treats blacks, gays, and people with AIDS. I wouldn't be human if I didn't. I had no idea there would be so much racism in the gay community. Just look at the gay personal ads that say, 'Attracted to whites and latinos only.' Eighty-five percent of gays will not date a black man, and 99% of the 15% that will are just looking for their fantasy of a big, black 'Mandingo.'"
"One way I work through my anger is to express it," Randy says. "But you can't express it until you acknowledge it. You've also got to laugh-you've got to have fun. You've got to have your little passions that help you embrace life. Mine are for my dog (a Lab-type mutt called 'Boomer' after the Indiana Pacers mascot), writing, sports, sex. I have a passion for laughing. I watch "One Life to Live," because I can count on it every day for one big-ass laugh."
"The will to live keeps me going," Randy says. "You wake up in the morning, it's up to you and you alone to make it through the day. That's been my daily goal since 1985-to make it through the day, and hopefully make it productive and worthwhile, and then go to sleep in a safe place. Everything else is on top of that."
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