Joe Plotts spent years working at a Seattle non-profit organization, providing services to people with HIV and AIDS. In that time, he met more than a thousand people suffering from the disease, and many of them shared their experiences with him: how they contracted the disease, how their lives have changed because of their HIV status, their triumphs and their defeats. With their permission, Joe began recording some of these stories. On this edition of B-Side, we bring you an unconventional radio documentary about AIDS and some of those suffering from the disease. Originally aired in March 2004.
The names behind the voices (2004):
Bob Austin: Bob is a part of the new generation of HIV infected people. At 60 years old, he doesn’t fit the stereotype of your average HIV infected person. But as a growing number of people in the US live into their second decade with the disease, they face new problems related their age and illness.
Dori Bryon: Dori suffered from certain disabilities related to the illnesses associated with AIDS that she had all of her 19 years. She was a brilliant impassioned woman who used all of her resources to spread courage and hope to people in her community and around the world. In September, HIV claimed one of its three million casualties for the year of 2003 and she passed away.
Barbara Bryon: Barbara is Dori’s mother. She unknowingly passed the virus to Dori in the womb. Despite this she maintains her wit and a sense of humor regarding their situation. Both mother and daughter wrote poetry about their experiences living with the disease.
Charles Dalton/Venus: Venus/Charles has been acting as advocate and activist in transgendered and HIV communities. Educating people about HIV has been one of his/her primary missions.
Terry Beth Edwards: Terry Beth was a Texas toughass. Ain’t nothin’ gonna beat her, not AIDS, not nothin’. Although she lives in Seattle (an area with some of the best social health services in the United States), she faced difficulty obtaining medication, incompetent case managers and herion junkie homecare workers. Terry Beth, of course, put up with none of it and demanded respect and decent services from the system. Terry Beth passed away last year.
Barry Ford: While seeing his doctor and managing his medications, Barry furthers his personal healing process spiritually. He has constructed a large shrine in his apartment and he frequently meditates and seeks out alternative treatment processes. Barry is one of a large number of HIV positive people who are co-infected with Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C destroys the liver and is often a cause of morbidity in people who need a well functioning liver in order to take the extremely potent and toxic medications needed to combat HIV. Barry´s hepatitis C is in remission after an extremely trying and difficult treatment regime.
Jeff Henderson: Jeff has been a long time advocate for people who are HIV positive. He has served on the King County planning council which decides where and how Federal money is spent on HIV services. He is an articulate and persuasive public speaker about the impact of HIV in African American communities in the US.
Jamie Jameson: Jamie has been infected since the times of GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) in the late 70’s. Part of the reason Jamie is alive was his acceptance of death. He didn’t go to the doctor or take medication at the time that AZT was developed. Many patients died because they took AZT prescriptions hundred’s of times higher than today’s doses. Jamie sees his doctor regularly and takes the myriad of pills known as “the cocktail” now.
Mark Allen & Matt Meko: Matt and Mark are a mixed couple. Both white men, Mark has AIDS while Matt doesn’t. The stress on their relationship has been enormous. Instead of succumbing to these pressures, both Matt and Mark have found ways to reach out to each other and their communities in a healthy healing way. Mark has deeply involved in the Shanti organization in California which provides community to people who are abandoned by their families and their partners.
Pat Migliore: Pat is an articulate schoolteacher who speaks to students about issues related to HIV/AIDS. Because of social stigma, Pat had a hard time “coming out” to the rest of the staff at her school. Eventually she did, and feels it was the right decision. She uses her own experiences with the disease to educate and thereby help prevent the spread of AIDS among the young.
Tony Radovich: Over the course of the last ten years, Tony has had the opportunity to found a community health organization which provided free alternative health services to people with life debilitating illnesses.
John Stapleton: Growing up as a gay man in South was difficult for John, as he has moved into his 60´s his new mission is to maintain housing for people who are unable to work. He has also worked with HIV positive children from Las Vegas to Seattle.
Dr. Bob Wood: Dr. Bob is a knowledgeable doctor working in the field of HIV/AIDS. He regularly attends and contributes to international conventions on the subject of new medical research and advanced treatment methods. Dr. Bob takes a personal stake in and, indeed, often becomes friends with his patients. He always has one thing in common with them as he, too, has AIDS. He was a founding physician at the Madison Clinic which was the first public clinic in Washington to specifically serve the HIV positive community. Dr. Wood now serves as the director of HIV/AIDS funding and services in Washington State.