Being Positive: Love And Life After An HIV Diagnosis | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Being Positive: Love And Life After An HIV Diagnosis

Play associated audio

Chris Whitney lived in San Francisco in the 1980s, when there wasn't much known about AIDS. But then he tested positive for HIV in 1985. He explains what happened next to his friend Erin Kuka.

"The first person I told was the person I was dating at the time, and that was pretty much the last conversation I had with him," Whitney says. "You know, the fear just took over. That kind of made me really wary about opening up to people.

"So, I decided to do some traveling. And I met a Frenchman who would become my partner for the next 10 years," he says. "And I was freaked out about telling him. I was like, 'Well, I have to tell you something. I, you know — I'm HIV positive.' And his response was, 'Yeah, and so?' And I thought, 'OK, he didn't understand that.'"

"Language barrier," Kuka says.

"Right," Whitney says.

Believing that Alexandre Coda didn't understand what "HIV" meant, Whitney explained — and Coda listened.

"And he said, 'Yeah. No, I understand, and so am I. And, so what?'" Whitney says. "And I was so blown away by that response. I was so used to always being the person who was positive meeting somebody who was negative. It didn't occur to me that I would meet somebody who was also positive."

"And you were able to remain healthy, while he started to succumb to the disease," Kuka says.

At the time, the couple was living in France and the first antiviral drugs started to come out.

"So he was put on them right away," Whitney says. "And unfortunately, I think in his case, it was too little, too late."

Coda died 14 years ago, on Dec. 2, 1997.

"And in my case, it was just in the nick of time," Whitney says. "I've lived with this for so long. It's hard not to ask the question: Well, why me? Why have I survived? You know, why did those treatments work for me, and not for him?"

Whitney, 50, has now lived with AIDS for more than 25 years.

"I have this memory of looking out our bedroom window," he says. "It was a night with a lunar eclipse. We looked out and watched the lunar eclipse together. I remember thinking that it was the last one he would see, and we would see together. I remember, I don't know what I said, something stupid, and made him laugh.

"And I just loved, loved, loved hearing him laugh," Whitney says.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher and Katie Simon.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

As Publishing Industry Courts China, Authors Speak Out Against Censorship

Chinese writers and publishers are being celebrated this week at BookExpo America — the industry's largest trade event in North America. Free speech advocates are supporting silenced Chinese writers.
NPR

Cod Comeback: How The North Sea Fishery Bounced Back From The Brink

A decade ago, fishermen trying to catch North Sea cod were coming up empty. Now, thanks to strict fishing rules put in place to halt the decline, this fish tale looks headed for a happy ending.
NPR

Former House Speaker Hastert Indicted In Probe Into $3.5M In Withdrawals

The Illinois Republican is accused of taking the money out in chunks of less than $10,000 to evade reporting requirements, and of lying to the FBI about it.
NPR

FCC Chairman Wants To Help Low Income Americans Afford Broadband

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposes to reboot the Lifeline phone-access program. The plan recognizes that everyone needs to study, apply for jobs and make social connections online.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.