An HIV Positive Gay Man’s Advice on Living in the Age of Covid

My friend Tim Cusack posted this on Facebook:

“For all the straight white people whining about how wearing masks is inconvenient and uncomfortable, how you miss human contact and all the things you used to be able to do, bemoaning that “things will never be the same again” and worried about COVID stigma, why don’t you ask one of your gay male/trans friends who survived the 1980s/90s how we managed to do it?”

Which led to some comments and responses ultimately so powerful, especially Tim’s maxims at the end, I want to share them:

John: “It was a decade of fear. I can remember our conversations. When I made this comparison early on I was called out for it.”

Tim: “Who would call you out for that? And why?”

John: “That it wasn’t a fair comparison. I was equating the sense of dread and isolation, but they weren’t having it. I have some staunch acquaintance.”

Heather: “I have a feeling that folx near me don’t wear them because they’re Republican jerks.”

Tim: “There were plenty of white gay Republican jerks who continued to vote the ongoing Reagan/Bush administration into office despite their obvious decision to allow us to all die off. They still wore condoms because they had no desire to be part of that body count.”


Ryan: “Wild to see others wake up to the fact that the US government will not protect you/us.”

Tim: “I know, right? “How is it possible that the GREATEST COUNTRY that ever is, was, or will be could just sit by while people are dying from a terrible infectious disease and not do anything about it?” [wrings hands in despair]”

Laura: “Yes, okay.

How? ❤️

Tim: “Value your continued existence and that of others more than what feels fun or good in the moment. Decide you have something more important to offer the world than a social life.

Accept that you must exist in community as a collective body not just an individual, egoistic being.

Allow yourself to mourn and honor the great loss of joy you are enduring.

Be creative and find ways of meaningful connection within the limitations imposed by the disease. Do something beneficial to others. We know that cultivating feelings of both gratitude and useful service release brain chemicals that boost the immune system.

Finally, as scary as this is, stay focused on the positive. We stopped thinking of ourselves as victims and instead began thinking of ourselves as people living with and surviving the new viral member of our community. We had to find a way to accommodate his presence. (I’ve always thought of HIV as having masculine energy for some reason.) Yes, people are dying horrific deaths without their familes being present to say goodbye. We know EXACTLY what that feels like. So many of us lived that experience. LOTS of others are surviving it. It’s not hopeless, and it’s not going to last forever, even if it FEELS that way.

Rob: “#guru”

Sanjay: “This is extremely concise and powerful.”

Harold: “Tim, you nailed it. A powerful reply from your heart.”

Tim Cusack

Tim gave me permission to post this. His main request was that add “HIV-Postive” to the title.

About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 30 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
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