wanted to live,” she says. She stopped doing street drugs and
sought help for her depression. Now, she often returns to the
streets where she once partied, educating others about HIV.
On disability for a back problem, Gresham is once again
close to her daughter and 16-year-old granddaughter. “God
put HIV in my blood not to kill me but to turn me around,”
Gresham says. “It’s like I found my happy self again.”
He was the perfect specimen, an Adonis whose ability to
twist his chiseled physique into breathtaking shapes made
him a springboard-diving star. Greg Louganis was the face of
diving during the 1980s, winning five Olympic gold medals.
But through every dive and television interview of the
1988 Olympics in Seoul, Louganis kept a secret: Six months
before, he had tested positive for HIV—yet another gay man
who came of age as AIDS was ravaging the gay community.
He retired soon after that Olympics to pursue other goals—
acting and dog training—that seemed urgent; he thought he
would soon die. A youth marked by depression fueled his
fatalism. “As a teenager I had half expected to be gone by the
time I was 30 anyway,” Louganis, now 51, says with a laugh.
He came close. His weight plummeted from 180 to 135,
the result of a fungal infection. Louganis was admitted to a
hospital in Florida, where he paid his bill—tens of thousands
of dollars—in cash, for fear that his insurer, and then the
tabloids, would learn of his disease. But, little by little, his optimism grew. He came out as HIV-positive in a 1995 memoir
and switched from training Great Danes, which usually live
about eight years, to Jack Russell terriers and other, longer-lived breeds that he enters into agility contests.
Louganis does yoga daily and teaches
diving in Los Angeles; his life partner, Daniel McSwiney, cooks him
healthy meals. Louganis says aging has
changed him: “Now that I’m in my 50s,
I have a lot less fear and anxiety. I may
have thought I’d be dead by 30, but I
feel very much alive now.”
ways to get
Twenty years ago, when Sergio Farfán
got a form of pneumonia so debilitating
he could barely breathe, emergency
room personnel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, discovered that
his immune system was effectively dead because of AIDS.
“They gave me a 2 percent chance to live,” Farfán says.
One doctor even told him he should go home and die, so
people who could benefit from drugs wouldn’t be shortchanged. “I went home and was incredibly depressed,”
Farfán, now 60, recalls. “Then I got really angry and went
back to the hospital and told them I needed a new doctor.”
With medication, the architect—a native of Mexico City—
regained his strength. Then, he became an activist, starting the
Louisiana Latino Health Coalition for HIV/AIDS Awareness.
Latinos get HIV at 2. 5 times the rate of whites. Most cases
are the result of men having sex with men, as was the case
with Farfán and a man he had met in Dallas. Once infected,
many Latinos face barriers that others do not. Some immigrants don’t speak English or are afraid of shaming their
families by admitting their condition, Farfán says.
Then there are the limitations on HIV services in some
southern states; for political reasons, funding them has not
been a priority. “Ninety-five percent of people on the waiting
list for HIV treatment are in the South,” says Charles King
of Housing Works, a New York City–based agency that finds
housing, treatment, and job training for people with HIV.
Medication for HIV/AIDS is expensive: It can cost $1,000
or more per month. But allowing people to go without medi-
cation costs far more, if they become ill with one of the many
complications of AIDS that can necessitate a hospital stay.