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16th November

A head filled with contradictions

While searching for something to watch on Netflix, I absentmindedly clicked on a video covering the early years of the Aids crisis in the eighties. The faded colors made it all seem very long ago. At the same time, it brought back memories that felt painfully close.


Once more, I saw the expression of shock and grief on my father’s face when I told him I had been diagnosed with HIV. I heard the beep of my pillbox in the middle of the night, reminding me to take my antiretroviral medication. I felt a knot in my stomach, just as I did when I went to get the results of my blood tests. Back then, a drop in my defence cells could have heralded the beginning of the end; at the time there was no other medication available than the AZT I was taking.


I remembered the Wednesday evening meetings with other men who were living with HIV. One by one they disappeared, while the newly diagnosed took their places until I was the only original member left. And I remembered the scared look in my brother’s eyes, hours before he too died of Aids more than thirty years ago.


I switched off the television. This was not something I needed to see. But why then did my fingers click on that documentary?


As a young boy in church, when the Easter story was told I always fervently hoped that this time Jesus would not be send to his death on the cross. Did I have the same delusion now, as if telling the story of the Aids crisis once again would lead to a new happy ending?


Or did I feel as if there’s still an outstanding account to be paid for having survived while so many others did not? The only way to pay that bill is to chronicle what happened. But I prefer not to think about that time of my life anymore, let alone write about it.


My longing to forget is as strong as the duty I feel to honor those lost. I can only guess why my mind decides to act on one of these feelings and not the other.

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