30 Years Of Friendship, Through Fear And An Uncertain Future Doug Neville and Ryan Johnson met shortly before Neville learned he was HIV-positive and began living with the specter of death. "I didn't know what I was going to do if you died," Johnson says.
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30 Years Of Friendship, Through Fear And An Uncertain Future

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30 Years Of Friendship, Through Fear And An Uncertain Future

30 Years Of Friendship, Through Fear And An Uncertain Future

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. The OutLoud initiative collects stories from the LGBTQ community. And today, we're sharing one of them with you - a story about the fierce bond between two men Doug Neville and Ryan Johnson. They met in 1986 shortly before Doug learned he was HIV-positive. They sat down in a StoryCorps recording booth to talk about their three decades of friendship.

DOUG NEVILLE: I never really had a lot of friends through grade school or high school, college even. I was frequently bullied. And so I was thought, what's wrong with me? And when we first started hanging out, I remember thinking I, you know, wanted to be your friend. And I knew how to get a man into bed.

RYAN JOHNSON: (Laughter).

NEVILLE: But I didn't know how to ask for a friendship.

JOHNSON: Why would he want to be a friend to me?

NEVILLE: Right, exactly. What do I have to offer?

JOHNSON: How close to dying did you get?

NEVILLE: I knew I was sick. But it wasn't until I went to see my doctor, and he said have you talked to your mother. That's when it hit me that it was that bad.

JOHNSON: There was a point where you'd stopped planning ahead, hadn't you?

NEVILLE: Oh, yeah. I really assumed that, you know, it was only a matter of time, and so I didn't live with any future in mind. I remember my 40th birthday. And I'm thinking, I hit 40. To me, it was a monumental accomplishment.

JOHNSON: I don't know if you remember this. But I was bitching about something and how I hated getting older. And you just very quietly said, you know, I would give just about anything to live to 50.

NEVILLE: Yeah.

JOHNSON: It made me realize that I didn't know what I was going to do if you died. I mean, I'd seen lots of guys around me go. And these were people I knew and were close to, but they weren't my brother, I guess. So I celebrate the fact that you're alive.

MARTIN: Doug Neville with his friend Ryan Johnson. They recorded the conversation in Chicago. Doug recently celebrated his 54th birthday.

Their interview is part of StoryCorps OutLoud, recording stories of the LGBTQ community across America. Those stories are archived at the Library of Congress. And to hear more StoryCorps OutLoud stories, check out their podcast. It's on iTunes and npr.org.

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