The temperate and rainy climate that descended on Christmas day in 2019, allowed a nation to slightly lower our shoulders and eased a little tension, given a long drought and gut-wrenching fires with accompanied loss, and associated grief.
Australia had been running on adrenaline for months through 2019. 2020 was promising to herald new dawn with topped up dams, green shoots and a sense of slightly healthy Australian life in the mind’s eye. Farewell to a harrowing 2019 and hello to a hopeful 2020!
The coronavirus seemed like some far away pest that was local to a market in Asia. In not even a blink of an eye when I heard, a large hospital was built in six minutes. It dawned on me at some stage that it must have taken quite some time to prepare the hospital lego to clip together in six minutes.
Perspective, perspective, perspective. Many posts on social media comparing what was emerging to the annual flu, US daily gun deaths as well as smoking and alcohol-related morbidities.
Days passed, and the volume at the Elton John concert at Parra was loud, yet an eerie something was eating away at me when Sir himself mentioned his concern over the Coronavirus. People chuckled around me on the Bankwest Stadium turf.
My diagnosed HIV status of 23 years kicked in as a further perspective. The epidemic/pandemic had killed 32 million, so the now named COVID-19 was a non-issue. A girlfriend mentioned in fatalistic jovial passing “Michael Anthony, what will be will be,” Of course, it would be, I told myself.
Murmurs of Europe, cruise ships and then death at a nursing home up the road, that I’d looked at for my Mother still didn’t penetrate my brain worry receptors.
More posts on perspective. People became worried. Large numbers of people started suddenly dying. Sat on the lounge and messaged my Professor seeking reassurance knowing I’d be seeing him in March. I felt better despite the slow creep of concern.
More global cases, more deaths. Didn’t seem to be slowing down. Appointment with Professor of 23 years in March. Excellent results and a drug change after 11 years. He was still reassuring about COVID-19 as he’s part of a NSW study cohort on reduced immunity and COVID-19. I qualified & enrolled.
My primary reflection, after much more death and sadness, is that 40 years ago, young men got sick and died in fear, died in shame, and died alone with no treatment and no drug therapy. HIV/AIDS became the gay plague, a scourge. People who died from HIV/AIDS considered by some as unclean and dirty.
I lived the tail end of that era and lied about living with HIV in 1998, but I had another priority, and that was to protect a dying partner from his family, reassure him from his fear and comfort him from the guilt that he had passed the virus onto me. He looked dreadful on his eight-month journey from February to October. I still lied and used the word ‘cancer’ instead. I promised him I wouldn’t tell. He felt such deep shame. He didn’t die alone. He was handheld, as I felt his body gently cooling after he had slipped this dimension. He had a beautiful, loving funeral, but HIV/AIDS not mentioned.
COVID-19 may now provide insight into a viral world of fear and what many people have gone through and still experience.
Today I visited a local supermarket to pick up some groceries, after not leaving home for almost five days. It was eerie. People were panic-ridden, wore masks, and looked at each other with suspicion and fear.
I couldn’t wait to get home to my healthy life of living well with HIV and on the first day with the latest and greatest new anti-retroviral drug. One tablet with three agents once a day with breakfast.
Fifty years ago, Apollo 13 was named a “successful failure” because three astronauts made it home safely. Many people feel far from home at the moment, even though constrained to home. I hope that a renewed appreciation blooms for people who have lived a world with a virus that has again killed 32 million.
May we all return home again soon after COVID-19.