My Uncle Didn’t Get AIDS Because He Was Gay

Kathryn DeHoyos shares the most important thing she ever learned about sex.

The most important thing I ever learned about sex did not come from the numerous health classes in school, with their watered down pamphlets and 70’s movies with bad hair. It didn’t come from the embarrassing conversations with my Dad, where I refused to make eye contact and just prayed for it to end quickly. And it definitely did not come from the “Abstinence” lectures we got in our church Youth Group. The most important thing I ever learned about sex came from my Uncle Keith a few months before he died of AIDS. We were sitting in the living room of a friend of his watching TV, he in the recliner, me on the couch. I don’t remember what we were watching, and we certainly weren’t talking about sex … Out of nowhere he turned to me, and in the soft voice I still hear in my head, he said “Katie, I want you to understand something … I didn’t get AIDS because I’m gay, I got AIDS because I had unprotected sex with multiple partners who were also having unprotected sex with multiple partners.” No one had ever said anything like that to me before. I remember looking at his eyes, already growing tired from my short visit. Next to him was the small painting he was working on to pass the time until he left us; the time until he died of this horrible, vicious, and completely preventable disease.

♦◊♦

I saw him alive for the last time that day. This man who taught me how to paint my emotions onto canvas. This man who had spent an entire weekend helping me and my younger sister paint an undersea mural on the walls and ceiling of her room. This man who had been shunned by his father and brothers, save my dad, for almost all of his adult life. This man who had never raised his voice, or spoken a sharp word to us girls, no matter how wild and crazy we were. He had one last lesson he needed me to learn, he needed more than anything for me to hear him and understand. Not in the surface manner so many 14 year olds choose to understand, but a true deep down in your soul understanding … and I did. In that moment I truly understood what all those ineffective classes and lectures had been trying to teach me. It wasn’t just about avoiding an unwanted pregnancy, or one of the obvious STD’s they showed us slides of to scare us into compliance or abstinence. It didn’t matter if you were gay or straight. It didn’t matter if you were losing your virginity, or having sex for the 100th time. It was about being smart and staying safe, staying healthy, staying alive.

I understood him then, and I understand him today.

Picture —  kakarottan/flikr

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About Kathryn DeHoyos

Kathryn DeHoyos currently resides on the outskirts of Austin, TX. She has 2 beautiful children, and is very happily un-married to her life partner DJ.

Comments

  1. A lovely and timely story – 1st December is of course World Aids day. So many forget that because it’s all so unfashionable now.

    I find it fascinating that a known and still growing issue that affects half the worlds population – and believe it or not even has relevance to men (The other half) – just passes so many by… and it gets worse each year.

    Most worrying is that in the USA – UK and in fact everywhere infection rates have started to go up. You see – fighting a disease is an ongoing issue, and when you sit back and take it easy there may be no immediate kick back, but there will be eventually. So one wonders what are good men and women around the globe going to do about getting that genie back under control, even if it can’t be stuffed back into the bottle!

    Just as a Puppy in not just for Christmas – Aids is not for just one day of the year … and it’s such a pity it don’t come with a wet nose and big sad eyes that people think adorable!

    • Kathryn DeHoyos says:

      Thank you for your comment! You are so right! People’s interest and activism has moved to other, newer issues…all of which deserve attention mind you! But because AIDS is no longer a “hot topic” people seem to think it has gone away or has become a non-issue which is not the case at all! Infection rates go up when educating young people about HIV/AIDS gets pushed to to back burner! When I was in school AIDS was still hitting the scene really hard, Ryan White especially…now kids don’t even know who he was! So many of my friends now will tell me about sexual encounters they have had and I always ask “did you use protection?” and I can’t tell you how many times I have heard things like “girl, I’m on the pill…” or “she’s got it covered…” like pregnancy is the ONLY thing to worry about! I end up feeling like such a nag sometimes but I don’t EVER want to watch another person I love waste away from something that could have been prevented!

      And in response to your question…EDUCATION! EDUCATION! EDUCATION! Also, making both male and female condoms READILY AVAILABLE to everyone!

  2. BelindieG says:

    Or else he had sex with someone who shot drugs.

    • Kathryn DeHoyos says:

      You are right!! That is also a very real possibility! But whether a promiscuous partner or a partner who was an IV drug user the bottom line is they didn’t use protection and an amazing man lost his life because of it! Thank you for pointing that out though! Even I forget to think about the spread of AIDS in that manner sometimes! Probably because IV drug use is discussed even less than AIDS is…thank you for pointing that out!

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