Living with AIDS: In Their Own Words

Human Immunodeficiency Virus

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HIV, AIDS and Black Men

Cleo Manago, CEO of the AmASSI Health and Cultural Center in Los Angeles, says efforts to educate African-American men who engage in high-risk sexual activity are outdated and culturally insensitive. AIDS will continue to ravage the inner cities of America, he believes, until more time and money is spent treating the psychology of infection.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS in the United States. In the first of a three-part series exploring the disease's impact at home and abroad, we'll hear from those affected by the disease in their own words:

A Young Mother of Two

Sherry, a 24-year-old mother of two from North Philadelphia, remains reluctant to make her status public. The man who infected her assured her that he was not HIV-positive — despite rumors Sherry had heard to the contrary. She waited to get tested for HIV and now has full-blown AIDS. She is raising her children without the support of family or friends.

A 20-Year Battle with HIV

Gladys Gutierrez also hails from Philadelphia, though her story differs remarkably from Sherry's. The 47-year-old grandmother of two contracted HIV from a transfusion of tainted blood more than 20 years ago. She is recently widowed — her longtime partner, who was never infected, died of cancer. She remains healthy, enjoys the support of a large, loving community, and even makes time to go dancing with her daughter.

A Daughter's Graduation

Vanessa, 46, lives in New York City and has been HIV-positive for nearly 10 years. She now has full-blown AIDS. She is a lesbian, currently without a partner, and lives for the day she can see her 18-year-old daughter graduate from college.

The Emotional Wounds of HIV

Jonathan Perry is 29, gay, and has been living with HIV since he was 23. He says getting infected not only drove him away from his church and his god, but from his mother as well. While time has healed some of those wounds, his words hint that others remain as raw as ever.



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