History HIVStigma

Published on October 13th, 2014 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles

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Unlike Many Humans, AIDS Does Not Discriminate

by Tom Frye

Back in the day, my foster son and I were walking out at Wilderness Park and we heard a puppy yipping and two guys screaming. We ran around the bend to find a small German shepherd pup trapped in a number three trap. Each time the two guys attempted to pull the dog out, it would yelp and they would scream, “Perpetual! Perpetual!”

Having trapped as a kid, I handed my kid my gloves, told him to latch onto the dog, and I pried the trap open and freed the puppy. Those two guys carried their pup away, murmuring, “Perpetual! Oh, Perpetual!” all the way down the trail.

My kid looked over at me and asked, “Were those two guys gay?”

I nodded, and he asked, “Do all gay guys act that way?”

I shook my head and said, “No, only the ones who name their dogs Perpetual.”

Now some of you might see the humor in this, while others might be disgusted that I said such a thing, but mind you at the time I knew only one gay person and he died of AIDS complications when he was 19-years-old. At the time I started working with him as a truancy tracker for the State, he was a sexually active 14-year-old kid, and I had no clue how to help him. Before he died, he asked me to write a book, warning other gay kids about HIV/AIDS.

Ten years after his death, I decided to honor his request. The only experience I’d had with gay folk at that point was a consultant for the Nebraska AIDS Project, where I was asked to approve or disapprove of several comic books they were designing for kids in general in regards to HIV.

And so, to further educate myself on the subject, I began my research at UNL Library and the Public Library. I read 50 some books on not only the HIV/AIDS virus, but I also conducted a multi-faceted study of gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and heterosexual orientation.

I learned that the AIDS virus was not spread as rumors go by a gay man having sex with a monkey. It began with the trade of monkeys around Lake Victoria in Africa, where Germany, Great Britain and the US, were paying local inhabitants to capture monkeys for research purposes. Some monkeys carried SIV, Simian immunodeficiency virus, which infects monkeys and causes death much like HIV leads to AIDS in humans. So it was once suspected that the virus jumped species. However, it has never been proven whether some humans ate infected monkeys or whether they came in contact with contaminated blood.

Once a research monkey infected with an Ebola-like virus escaped from its cage, and sent out an air-born virus that infected several humans in Marburg, Germany, and thus they named the virus Marburg. Marburg and Ebola are retro-virus’ that infect a human host. They are hardy and kill their host in a matter of days. HIV is subtle, changes its structure becoming a Trojan Horse, and continues to feed off of its host for a number of years before its host dies of AIDS complications.

When the epidemic first started, French researchers said, “Only America would name a virus a gay disease. It is a deadly virus only, and unlike some people, it doesn’t discriminate. It infects heteros and homos alike.”

In fact, it first spread up and down Highway 101 in Africa, where female prostitutes were infecting male truck drivers. It was only after a gay flight attendant carried it with him to America that it spread to the gay community. Gay bathhouses became a breeding ground, for those who practiced promiscuous sex with one or more partners. And yes, under these conditions it became an epidemic, but lest you cast blame on all gay folks in general, know that one hot spot for the spread of the virus is retirement communities in Florida, and that is amongst heterosexual couples, and elderly no less.

So, like the French once said, “Unlike many humans, it doesn’t discriminate,” and after reading up on the entire subject, with the universal population it impacts, I will never do so again myself.

We are all just people trying to get by and we don’t need to stereotype and put stigmas on certain populations. I was guilty of doing so that day out at Wilderness Park, and though it was an off-hand remark to make, I am now more much wiser in that regards.

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Tom Frye has worked for the past 30 years as an advocate for troubled youth. He began his career when still in high school, serving as a street contact for a runaway shelter. It was during his time as a worker at a detention facility for delinquent youth, that he began writing stories for the residents. When kids began asking for sequels to his works, Tom knew he had discovered a way to communicate and connect with troubled kids.
Tom has served as a mediator for his own truancy program, and provided wake-up calls and escorts to schools for a wide mix of alternative students. As an English/Drama instructor, he once produced and directed a substance abuse program which had an impact on 15,000 at-risk kids.
He believes, though, that his greatest accomplishment can be summed up in the words of one troubled boy who wrote to him while confined in an institution: “Discovered your book today. It was like reading a letter you wrote directly to me. Thanks for giving me hope.”

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