Friday, May 29, 2009

One Man's Story

Gerry said that the moment they put handcuff on him, he said "Oh Lord, don't let me die in jail.". Gerry is thirty-four years old. "I'm not going to lie. When I was younger, I was a real hustler. I sold drugs from New York to Miami. I was on the road all the time, buying and selling. I made a lot of money and I didn't think there was any end to the business I was in. When I was about twenty-nine, I started not feeling quite right. I thought it was because I was running the road so much, doing alcohol and drugs. I thought I was just tired. I took a vacation but even that didn't help. Then I had pneumonia. They asked me if I wanted to be tested for the HIV virus. I told then yes. When it came back positive, I signed myself out of the hospital. I refused to believe it. Not me. Oh God, not me. I thought I would died in the next few days. I really started using drugs. I figured that if I was going to die anyway, I might as well do it my way. I went through all my money. I kept driving up and down the coast as if I could out run it. I had nothing left. I started to sleep on the subway. I saw some kids trying to steal anything out of my pockets. I would have cut them if they had tried to doing anything like that in the past. Now, I just didn't care what happened. About four months later, I ended up in the hospital again. I weight 100 pounds and I am over 6 feet tall. I was just too tired to run anymore. I came in to die. I didn't. By this time, I had full-blown AIDS. My T-Cells was 70. I didn't know how long I had the virus before I actually found out that I had it. I do know that my drugging, my running,and my stress had taken a real toll on my health. While I was in the hospital, I started to read up on the virus. I attended some groups while I was still there. When I came out, I became active in the AIDS program. I cleaned up my act and and I took training to become an AIDS peer counselor. I would talk to young kids in school. I was in the outreach program to try to teach people how to prevent AIDS, how to have safe sex without feeling like less of a man. I found that people would listen to me because I had been in the streets, that I had used drugs, that I had spent time up north(state prison). I really liked being a counselor. For the first time in my life I felt good about what I was doing and really proud of myself. This went on for almost four years, I even found a woman who had the virus and we planned to get married and to take care of each other. The one night, when I was coming home from an AIDS meeting, some guy tried to rob me. I struggled against him and I hit him. He fell and hit is head on a fire hydrant. He died. I never meant it to happen. There is no self defense plea in New York. I am here until they lower my bail."

Gerry has become a peer counselor on the dorm and the most effective, generous person there. He takes charge when a new person comes, especially if the man has been newly diagnosed with the virus. Gerry is the best person to help acclimate someone to the dorm and to the awareness of having AIDS. Oh, Lord, don't let him die in jail.