We Were Here (2011) Movie Script

- There was nothing
extraordinary about the fact.
That you lose the people
that you love...
'Cause it's gonna happen
to all of us.
It's just that it happened
in this targeted community.
Of people
who were disenfranchised.
And separated
from their families...
And a whole group
of other people stepped up.
And became their family.
- We are not
some network of people.
Who just like to have sex.
We are not some
ephemeral subculture.
That comes
and dissolves and goes.
This is a community
that was tested.
In a way almost no community
on earth is ever tested...
And succeeded
in what it was trying to do...
Which is save as many lives
of people as it could...
Stop civil rights attacks...
And then
try to use that example.
To transform the world.
If you're ever facing
a natural disaster.
As extraordinary as aids was.
In the last quarter
of the last century...
You should be so lucky
as to be in a community.
Like the queer community
of san francisco.
- When I talk to young people,
They'll say,
"what was it like?"
I mean, the only thing
I can liken it to is a war zone...
But most of us have never
lived in a war zone.
But it was...
...you never knew where the bomb
was gonna drop.
I decided to do
this interview because...
I've... I've been around
for the entire epidemic...
And I've seen
so many parts of it...
And I think there's
a lot of people from...
I mean, none of my friends
are around.
From the beginning.
So I want
to tell their story.
As much as I want
to tell my story.
I think that's why.
- I came to san francisco.
Back in the late '70s.
You know, there were more
gay people coming here.
There was
all these love children.
It was right at the end
of the hippies, you know...
And everybody, I mean,
if you had a bus ticket...
It better be saying
"san francisco," you know...
Because that was
the place to come.
I was the dancer.
I thought I could dance better
than anybody on the west coast.
Center stage,
i would get up there...
I'd climb up on that stage...
And i'd dance myself
into a frenzy.
Every sunday night
at the tea dance.
And if you got too close...
You might slip off the stage...
Because you were
too close to me.
But I thought
i had it going on.
My dad said one day
that I should sell flowers.
That's a good business.
And I thought, "I'm gonna
sell flowers in san francisco,"
Because, you know,
they've got these songs...
Where have all
the flowers gone?
And "if you're going
to san francisco...
Wear a flower
in your hair," and...
...so I was ready for it.
A friend of mine
came up in a pickup.
And took me right over
into the castro.
On 15th and noe, and I've
been there for 28 years.
"Hey, I'm one of
the family members," you know.
"Come buy my flowers. "
So I would put up
these rainbow flags...
And i... You know, and you could
see 'em from a block away.
If you looked
down the street.
You could just see
that little ribbon.
Until all the colors faded.
- I always knew I was gonna
come out to the bay area.
And I think a lot of us
came out here.
Because we didn't quite fit
where we were.
Back in college, I helped start
the first woman's newspaper.
Uh, we started the first
childcare center.
Stuff like that.
So I was very involved.
We had a women's center
on haight street...
So I started going
to the women's center...
And we sat around and said...
"Let's open up
a women's clinic,"
And then we just did it.
It was the era
of illegal abortions.
It was a time
when we, as women...
Weren't as educated
about our body.
I was getting
a little older...
My late... Later 20s...
And I thought, "eileen...
You might want
a real job sometime,"
So I thought,
"I'll just go to nursing school.
And see how I feel about it. "
And, uh, I loved it.
I loved bedside nursing.
Once I started working
in the hospital...
There were all these gay men...
And it was really fun...
'Cause we'd go
clubbing together.
To the i-Beam,
to the stud.
You know,
places like that.
I'd dance and go home
and go to sleep.
So, you know,
we had a good time.
It was, like, really fun.
Unfortunately, none of
those guys are alive today.
- You know, it's the... The end
of the hippy era in america...
And I was a queer kid who...
Who was different...
Didn't really know
what to do...
And basically left
buffalo, new york...
And hitchhiked
around the country.
For a number of years with
the guy I was sleeping with...
And deliberately
tried to be free...
It was our...
Sort of our goal...
And I remember
at one point thinking...
"Well, I've got nothing but
the backpack and my boyfriend. "
And we literally
actually had nothing.
"I guess we must be free. "
And it was that
sort of mentality.
That we were pursuing.
A phrase that
I've sort of come to like.
Is "crazy dreamers,"
And I was... At that time...
I thought san francisco
and california.
Was full of crazy dreamers...
And that was where
i wanted to be.
I belonged to a little commune.
Of leftover '60s folks...
Who were trying to establish
an alternative lifestyle...
And I was struggling with
was I gay...
Was I bisexual, you know,
what is going on.
So I come out of the closet...
In this terrifying moment of
coming to the gay student union.
In san jose state
in september of 1975...
And the minute
i walked through the door...
And I'm sure most gay men
of my generation...
Most queer people are gonna
have a similar experience.
It was like you're home.
It's, like,
it all felt familiar.
It all seemed like,
How did I not realize this
is where I was supposed to be?"
- My father really wanted me
to get a master's degree...
And I really didn't care...
So the compromise was I would go
to san francisco state...
'Cause san francisco
was where I wanted to be.
I liked the people here.
They just seemed more open.
And I always wanted to meet
a nice blond surfer.
When I moved
out to california...
I was still in the closet.
I didn't come out of
the closet until after college.
Um, I came out with a bang.
I was in a production
ofthe boys in the band.
For quite a few years,
i was a bit of a workaholic.
I was in my studio
all the time.
By the time I was 27...
I was having one-Man shows
in new york...
At galleries...
Good galleries in new york.
And I didn't know
it was supposed to be that easy.
It was just easy.
And I was pretty obsessed
with my work...
And I was
for quite a long time.
And... Until I got sick,
I was first
living in the haight...
And I remember
walking down haight street...
And there was this guy handing
out leaflets on the corner...
And it was harvey.
It was his first campaign...
First time he was running...
And he introduced himself
and I talked to him...
So I went to work for him.
And I was handing out
And, you know, door hangers
and things like that.
And that was very exciting...
'Cause I had been somewhat
political in college.
I'd gotten sick of it...
Because all my roommates
were s. D.S...
And it was very militant.
And harvey was just
a lot gentler...
And a lot more fun.
My partner at that time,
Was also fairly political.
Any time there was a march
or a demonstration.
Or a candlelight thing,
we were always there.
Um, it was important to us.
Those were the things.
That made us feel connected
to the community.
Castro street was just
starting to happen...
And you would always
run into people you knew...
And it really felt
like a village...
And the castro
just started to feel.
Like the village
you always wanted.
- If you took
a bunch of young men.
And said, "have as much sex
as you can have,"
How much sex
would they have?
A lot of sex.
The sense was if gay is good,
gay sex is good, you know?
And more gay sex
is even better.
And people often say of...
Of my generation...
We came to san francisco
to be gay.
- I remember, like,
january, 1977...
I went right down
to castro street.
Here I've lived in greenwich
village all these years.
"This... This
is gonna be amazing. "
And I went down,
and, yeah, as you know...
It's, like, one block long...
And, like, a block
in either direction.
And, like, there were
a lot of gay men.
And, as with
any group of people...
It was already pretty quickly
falling into little cliques.
You know, there was, like,
this kind of military look...
And the kind of the...
The outdoorsmen look...
And there was a preppy look...
And there was already this,
like, kind of western look...
And a leather look.
It was already
starting to happen.
People quickly identifying
as certain male images...
And i, you know,
i just didn't, like, fit in.
There wasn't, like,
a long-Haired...
High-Voiced basketball look,
or something, you know?
I was just kind of me.
I mean, I tried.
I would go and pick up guys
and bring them home...
And, like,
they would want to go.
From zero to 60 so fast.
I couldn't do it.
I was terrible
at anonymous sex.
I didn't know how to go,
"all right. "
You know, I just...
I couldn't do it.
I was like, "hi, my name's ed.
Who are you?"
You know, and it just...
It didn't...
it didn't click.
- I tend to be somebody
who has a partner.
Almost my whole life...
But I've always been
in open relationships...
So my sexual outlet
was always the bath houses...
And they were there,
and they were fun.
And I would go
with my friends.
It wasn't, like,
something I would sneak out.
And go on my own.
It was... It was something
of an outing.
We would go with friends.
I remember coming out
of one bath house...
At, like,
3:00 in the morning...
And walking home across the city
in the middle of the night...
And just thinking...
"Gee, if my mother
could see me now...
She'd be just shocked,"
But it just felt so good.
It was, like, a club...
And we... We called it church.
It was going to church.
- Part of it,
you're having sex to have fun.
Part of it,
you're having sex to find love.
Part of it,
you're having sex to, uh...
...to... To rebel
against the people.
Who said
you couldn't have sex.
All of america
was feeling very confident.
That you could be
much more sexual...
And that was okay.
Venereal diseases
and unwanted pregnancies...
It's all curable
with a shot or a pill.
Or something to that effect.
It's may of 1979...
And the verdict has come down...
A verdict on dan white
for the murder of harvey milk...
And we're all at city hall
There's this enormous rage.
Thousands of people arrive.
The police attack.
We're tear-Gassed,
we're beaten.
Police cars are burned.
So this is not a community.
That's feeling really good about
the political establishment.
Going into the 1980s.
The next night is harvey's
birthday party...
And so the streets
close off...
Tens of thousands
of people show up...
And they give very,
very angry speeches.
Anne kronenberg
gives a very fierce speech...
And at the end
of her speech...
She starts a chant,
"welcome to the '80s...
Welcome to the '80s. "
We couldn't know,
of course...
That even then
hiv was present.
Hiv arrived first
in san francisco.
Probably in '76...
And by 1979,
probably 10%
Of the gay men
in that crowd were infected.
And by the time we discover.
That there is such a thing...
Aids is even happening,
in june of '81...
Roughly 20% are infected.
By the time we actually
get the test...
So people can find out
if they're infected...
Close to 50% of the gay men
of san francisco.
Are already infected.
- '81 was a big year.
I landed a really good job...
And, for the first time...
I was part
of a large office staff.
With a lot of other gay men.
I was finishing my graduate
degree in creative writing.
I went to europe.
I had this great job.
All these new gay men
i was working with.
And, um, I felt like...
"Oh, the '80s.
Something's gonna shift. "
Like, I moved
to new york in '71.
Now I'm really here
in san francisco in '81.
And... And so that is
when everything changed...
Because that was, you know,
that was the year in the castro.
Running down,
I'll never forget...
I went to
the castro theatre.
Great double feature.
Two... I think it was, uh...
It was, like,
now, voyagerandcasablanca.
On the big screen...
And I remember, like,
running down to the...
The old star pharmacy...
'Cause we're gonna
smoke some pot...
And we didn't have any papers.
And I remember
looking in the...
...i remember looking in the window
of star pharmacy...
And there were these little
polaroid photographs.
That this young man
had made of himself.
There were at least three,
maybe four of them.
The first one was like this.
And inside...
...these big,
purple splotches.
And then there was
another picture...
And he had taken his shirt,
and pulled it up like this.
It was of his chest...
Big purple splotches.
They were just on the window...
And underneath,
there was a hand-Written note.
That said something like,
"watch out, guys.
There's something out there. "
Something like that.
And, uh, oh, my god.
It made...
huge impact on me.
And then, like,
i was really stoned...
And I went and watched
the movie, and...
...but the whole movie.
I was just
thinking about that.
It really made
an impact on me.
I went to see the movies with
a friend of mine named michael...
And he and i
worked together...
And he had woken up
kind of recently.
With this, like,
red splotch in his eye.
And he kept going, like,
"what is this? What is this?"
And, um, he, um, he had been
going to the eye doctor...
And they hadn't been able
to figure out what it was...
You know, i...
...it turned out to be ks.
He had ks in his eye.
So it was right there
in the movie line with us.
Like, already.
Like, it was already there.
- The pictures
show the progression.
Of how a few red bumps.
Turn into the mark
of kaposi's sarcoma.
It's a rare cancer normally
found in the elderly...
But now
it's striking young men...
Most of whom are gay,
like bobbi campbell.
After one month,
tests are still being done.
On the red bumps
on his foot.
- I don't know
how I got it.
I fit the profile of kind of
a typical kaposi's patient.
In my age,
and that I'm gay, and...
...but I don't know
how I got it.
- The first time
i heard about aids...
I think it was called
the gay cancer.
It was ks.
It was terrifying.
And we had friends
who were dying.
Right at the beginning
of the epidemic.
I mean, this one person
who helped my career greatly...
Who was a curator
of the brooklyn museum...
Gave me a show
at the brooklyn museum...
And he died before
the show happened...
And that was...
We... Now looking back...
I know he died of aids...
But back then
there was no name for it.
- I was hanging blood
one day in the hospital...
And this was, you know...
Before the times
that you wore gloves.
And the infectious
disease fellow
Came in and said, "eileen,
why don't you put gloves on?
We don't know what this is. "
- I was selling flowers
at that time...
And there was a guy
down the street.
Five days.
One day he went
to the hospital...
Five days later,
he was dead.
- I'm looking through
the gay periodicals...
And in one of them,
new cancer described.
And so I'm aware
something has occurred.
And I noted...
I think everybody who was paying
attention to the community.
Noted, "well, this could be
something to pay attention to,"
And so we... I did.
- People were coming in
with pneumocystis pneumonia...
Who were quite well,
you know, one day.
You know, uh, out there
swimming, playing tennis.
You know, buffed.
Coming in and...
Were dying.
I mean,
were dead ten days later.
People would come in
with kaposi's sarcoma.
There might be one little legion
or two little legions...
And they would grow.
And maybe a legion would cut off
circulation in their leg...
And their leg
would balloon up...
Or maybe it would
get into their lung...
And they couldn't breathe.
And maybe they would
just waste away.
- Very early, certainly within
the first 18 months...
I assumed that a number of my
friends were likely infected...
And probably myself and...
And all the people
in my group were infected.
- From the beginning...
I just couldn't stand
the homophobia.
And the prejudice
that was going on...
And the fear.
There was incredible fear,
These people
were coming in and dying...
And nobody knew what it was...
And people get afraid.
There were people who were
afraid to go into rooms...
And so I found myself
going into the rooms.
If you're not a family member,
they wouldn't talk to you...
So if somebody's partner
was in there...
The doctors might not explain
to them what was going on.
So I found myself
talking to them.
It was a weird time
in the hospital...
Because they didn't want
to be associated.
As an "aids hospital,"
Because no one would want
to come to the hospital.
If they knew we were
an "aids hospital. "
So there was a lot
of struggle there.
I remember my mom.
She was saying,
"why do you have to do this?"
You know,
'cause I've already put my mom.
Through lots of stuff.
And I remember saying to her...
"Mom, it didn't choose...
I didn't choose it.
It chose me. "
'Cause you're there...
And this terrible thing
is happening...
And you're a nurse,
and you can help...
And sometimes that's just
helping somebody die...
But i, you know,
i couldn't turn my back to it.
- Something was happening.
That these gay men
were showing up.
At places like united way...
Looking for a support group...
Or, um...
...uh... Social services.
Because they had no...
...they had no family.
I saw an ad
in thebay area reporter.
Shanti project
was looking for people.
Who'd be willing to be a buddy
to someone with this illness.
And I took the second
shanti volunteer training.
That occurred here
in san francisco...
And I got matched
with someone immediately.
I hadn't met a person
with aids yet.
Who was just kind of, like,
off on his own, and...
...like, expecting...
...that someone was gonna come,
and, like, help him.
And, um...
...i just remember
going to his apartment, and...
...just him opening the door,
...he said his name was ed.
I said
my name was ed too.
And, you know, like,
lo and behold...
My way
of being with gay men.
was perfect.
Like, "hi. "
Like, "who are you?
How are you doing?"
I took my training
in july of '83...
And of course I was close
to all these gay men.
There were seven gay men
working in this office...
And I was coming in
and telling them, like...
"Oh, my god... "
And, you know, they think
it's transmitted sexually...
And they're thinking condoms
is a way to protect us...
And they're telling us
don't use poppers.
And I go, "it's already, like,
disseminating information. "
Back then, especially...
There was this
whole dynamic about.
How are you getting it?
Who are you getting it from?
Who's giving it to who?
Um, in that little office...
Some of that feeling, like...
I'm pretty sure they had
all had sex with one another.
But, once again,
in my kind of mismatched way...
I hadn't had sex
with any of them.
...they all...
...they all got infected.
And they all died
except one.
- My partner, steve,
was an immunology researcher.
We'd been together
for quite a while...
Probably about eight years.
And, all of a sudden...
People were coming to him.
And asking him
to explain what's going on...
And it was interesting.
I mean, his self esteem
sort of turned around...
Because he was a holder
of very important information.
He ended up working
in jay levy's lab...
Which was one
of the most important.
Aids research labs
in the world.
We got tested because
steve took my blood.
And brought it
into jay levy's lab...
So we were, like,
some of the first people.
Who knew that we were
actually positive...
'Cause the test
wasn't even available.
When steve came back
from jay levy's lab.
And told me that we were
both hiv positive...
It... My life
changed completely.
Um, i... I had had five people
working for me...
Um, and I let them go...
And, luckily,
i had saved some money...
And I just
started doing sculpture.
- Here am i,
the kid from san jose...
I'm up here,
I'm now the vice president.
Of some little
gay democratic club.
Where maybe 15 or 20
people show up...
And suddenly the community
starts to die.
Of these extraordinary,
horrible diseases...
And they want help.
"How do we... " You know,
"how do we keep 'em alive?
"How do we make sure
they don't die of starvation.
Because they can't cook?
How do we... "
Meanwhile, there's all these
attacks that are occurring.
Meanwhile, there's
this tremendous debate.
Within the community about...
"Well, maybe these
are all wrong decisions.
Maybe we shouldn't
be sexually free. "
Maybe... And all these
other debates are occurring.
But it's occurring...
The leadership, such as it is...
Is guys like me,
who are suddenly...
In this little group...
Were forced to deal with this
unbelievable circumstance.
Of a community that, in addition
to being hated and under attack...
Is now forced alone
to try to figure out.
How to deal with this
extraordinary medical disaster.
People would see
my picture in theb. A.R.
And come up to me and say,
"i was diagnosed. What do I do?
"Do you know a doctor?
What do I do?
"Is it true, you know,
this might occur?
What do I do?"
We held a series
of town hall meetings...
And a group called mobilization
against aids was created.
And I was their first e. D...
And that's sort of how
i formally enter into aids work.
Mobilization's purpose
was to demand a greater response.
To the hiv aids pandemic.
The first response was to try
to take care of the sick.
That's the first response.
The second response
was to try to stop people...
Um, from getting infected.
The third response was...
How do we advocate?
How do we now
get other people involved.
To be able
to generate resources?
We are here to try to spark
across the land.
General citizen support for
the actions that are being led.
So overwhelmingly
by people with aids...
To try to get
the nation to move.
Into an effective response
of this epidemic.
We lead a delegation of people
with aids to washington.
Here's guys, very sick...
They're in end sta...
By definition...
They're in end-Stage aids.
There is no treatments to...
To speak of.
Maybe there's some
experimental treatments.
They're starting to get.
And here they are,
flying on planes...
Going across the country
with no money...
Sleeping four to a room.
To be able to go do opping.
And my experience is...
My belief is, all those folks
thought they would die.
None of them thought
they would survive aids.
They were doing it
because they thought.
In so doing they would make it.
So other people
from the community and beyond.
Were able to live.
And that happened
many, many, many times...
Where people with aids would
just do extraordinary things.
That's who was, in fact,
leading the response.
- When he went to the hospital,
i followed him there.
So I went to 5-B...
Which was right here at
san francisco general hospital...
To... To visit him,
as a shanti volunteer.
And 5-B was a seven-Bed unit...
An old intensive care unit
that had been turned into.
The first aids-Dedicated
hospital unit in the world.
And everybody who worked there
was there on a volunteer basis.
1983, which they weren't sure
how it was transmitted.
So they didn't
want anybody working there.
Who was gonna have
contagion issues.
So they wanted to make sure here
at san francisco general.
That you were not gonna be
coming from that kind of fear.
You'd be volunteering
to work here.
This is where
i started encountering...
Like, lesbians, coming
and working on the aids unit.
With all these gay men
who were dying.
It was so moving,
because certainly gay men.
Were not making a whole lot
of room for lesbians.
Let's put it that way.
Back then.
...so I got this sense
of this group of people.
Who were really caring
for these men who were dying.
- Steve became
more and more obsessed.
With trying to find out
what the latest treatments were.
He wanted to save our lives.
He wanted to figure out,
you know...
You know, how we were
gonna beat this thing.
And he found out
about a study.
That was done in africa
with a drug called suramin.
And they were doing...
They were doing the study
here at san francisco general...
And he got us both
into the study.
Across the country, there was,
like, three study sites.
There were, like,
80 people in the study.
And the drug was hideous.
It was...
you'd go in...
And it was, like,
two hours of i. V...
And for the next two days...
You literally felt like
you'd been run over by a truck.
And I was a wuss.
And i... I just...
After a month of this...
I just said,
"i can't take this. "
It's just, you know...
...i was just...
It just made me so sick...
And I hated it.
But steve just kept on going...
And he had had
chronic hepatitis b.
From a needle stick
that he'd gotten in a lab.
When he was working
in a lab...
And it activated
his hepatitis.
And within...
We started, I think,
the study in july.
He quit the study
in october.
And he was...
...he was dead by january.
It was really quick.
...and everybody in that study
died except for me.
'Cause I was a wuss.
I couldn't take it.
And I'm so glad
i took care of myself that way.
But I talked to a doctor
in the study afterwards...
And they had a meeting
of all the doctors.
And people who had...
across the country.
Who had been involved
in the study...
And he said he never...
...he'd never been in a room
of doctors sobbing before.
They had lost
all their patients.
Very quickly.
So that was one of the first
disasters in aids treatment...
I think,
that really made everybody.
Really careful after this.
Steve was 35.
Two weeks after steve died...
My best friend died.
Two days before steve died...
Another good friend died.
I mean, it was just...
It was an avalanche.
- Within a mile of epicenter
of castro and market...
Large numbers
of people died.
And not just
your friends who died...
But, you know,
the people you didn't know.
The friend of the friend.
You know,
you'd go get a coffee...
And the person who used
to give you coffee's died.
You would, you know,
whatever it was...
Your banker, your mailman,
all that.
Mass, mass death.
To the point where you,
to some degree...
You would stop asking,
if people weren't around...
Where they were, unless you
wanted to get into a discussion.
Of them being dead
or them being sick.
So, for a number of years...
People are all assuming
we've got this disease...
And it's very likely
we'll be dead soon.
- Everybody was reading
the obituaries...
Because they went from
like this to like this.
You know, it was just,
like, "oh, my god. "
And everybody would get
theb. A.R.Every week.
Just to see who's gone.
Being the flower man...
I was thrown
into the middle of it...
Because a lot of people
would say...
"Guy, my friend died...
"And I don't have enough money
to buy flowers, and...
...i need some help.
Can you help us?"
They wanted
to bury their friends.
With a lot of dignity
and beauty, and...
...and "i came to you
to help me out. "
You know,
I'm emotional...
Because this is the first time
i thought about it.
I... I can't even count the
funerals that I did, you know?
And if it wasn't
no more than...
You know, some people
would bring me a vase...
And they said, "guy,
this is all I can afford.
Can you put some
flowers in it, or?..."
You know, and I did that.
And i, you know,
it was never about money.
It was about love,
you know.
It was about these people.
Not letting my friends down.
You know, just helping them
to the other side.
- Today I have ordered
the closure.
Of 14 commercial
Which promote and profit
from the spread of aids.
- There was a broad view
That there was
a sexual transmission component.
Of the disease.
So here we are debating
how do we continue to have sex...
How do we continue
to love each other...
How do we continue to be...
To pursue the dream of the
community that we want to have.
In the midst of this plague...
And so then
comes the discussion...
Well, the government.
Would like to shut down
some institutions...
And some of these are old,
core institutions...
Which is the bath houses.
There's always
been bath houses.
They precede the gay community
as we know it...
Where gay people would go
and meet and have sex...
And some people thought
that was a good idea...
The bath houses are run by
irresponsible business owners.
Who are... Just don't care
about the pandemic.
And are ripping people off...
And other people thought
this is a dangerous precedent.
That your friend
the government.
Would like to shut down
these institutions.
Is that... That okay with you?
The majority
of the community.
Felt that we were in
a crisis right now...
And the baths
needed to be shut down.
And a lot of people
were very afraid of it...
And so the community divided.
And, to some degree...
A split also between
the women's community...
The lesbian community,
and gay men...
Where gay men kept being
controversial to a degree...
By insisting
on having as much sex
In as many places
as they were doing...
And the women's community.
Was, you know,
to some degree saying...
You know,
we don't know...
This is not the commu...
This is not the core
definitions of the community.
That we think the community
should be fighting over.
We don't think
the central battles.
Of glbt liberation
should be about, you know...
Public sex, for example.
We think there should be
a broader discussion.
So it was a high,
high tension debate.
- Since I did sit on the corner
for 28 years...
I just saw the progression
of people, you know...
So scary just to,
all of a sudden, you know...
They'd be walking
down the street...
And then the next time
you see them...
They would be
walking with a cane...
Or they'd be in a wheelchair.
And that was devastating to...
"Oh, I remember him. "
- Here's the gay community...
for better or for worse...
Is very concerned
with appearances...
And here comes this disease
that manifests itself.
And destroys
your physical appearance.
It's the first thing it does...
Whether it's ks or wasting.
I mean, people were just
losing many, many pounds...
And people...
It looked...
People... It looked like,
you know...
We were living
in a concentration camp.
I mean, people were just
losing so much weight.
In their faces
and their bodies.
You know, a third of their
body weight very, very quickly.
They didn't know what was...
You know, what part
of the disease was causing it.
Um, so it was these
very physical manifestations.
That were horrifying to people...
And were very scary to people...
And if you...
Especially if you had aids...
And then you saw somebody
who was much worse off than you...
You almost had to turn away.
It was just...
It was too scary.
I was losing all the fat
in my face and my butt...
And everywhere...
And I would walk
by a store window
And see myself in the window,
and just jump.
It's like,
"who is that?"
Um, and I remember
my mother saying...
"Couldn't you
stand on your head...
"And make some of the stuff
flow down to your face?
You got nothing on your... "
You know, "you're just...
You're skin and bones. "
- The aids epidemic allowed me
to move into the community.
In a very powerful way.
And, in fact, in many ways...
I began to thrive.
Because it was, like,
being in the army.
Like, I was really,
for the first time...
Other than being
super involved in my family...
I was involved
in something else.
Like, I rolled up
my sleeves, and...
...i wanted to be
a part of this.
The aids ward was a...
It was a terrible and beautiful
place at the same time.
My primary role was to be one of
the shanti counselors there...
Which was someone
who was trained.
To be able to sit.
And be and witness
and have conversations.
And support people
through their process there.
I worked with people there.
Who were, like,
18 years old.
We had people there
who were in their '60s.
But in general they were
sexually active gay men.
People were coming
into the hospital.
With diseases like
Which you can get from a potted
plant or a canary cage.
I mean, people were
extremely susceptible.
To any number of things.
So there had to be, like,
a controlled environment.
There was this idea that
we were there to cure and heal...
And... And not
to minimize any of that...
But... But really, back then...
What were people were doing is...
They were dying of aids...
And we were trying to help them
as best we could.
You could go a couple days...
And, um, no one would die.
And then, in one day, like,
six people would die.
We saw many
lover couples come in.
One would die.
The other, you know,
partner would be there...
Go through the whole process...
Some time would pass...
And then the next lover
would come in.
There was a mom
who came to 5-A...
And one... Two... Three times...
She lost her boys there.
I would stand in the hallway...
A gay man myself
in my mid 30s...
Visiting and talking
to a mother and father.
Who had just stepped out
of a room...
Who had just found out
that their son had pneumocystis.
And had three months to live,
or whatever...
And the father
would stand there and go...
"You know...
"it's harder for me to find out
that my son is a fag.
Than to find out
that he's gonna be dying soon. "
And there I would be, like,
trying to comfort him.
- When steve died,
my friends were there for me.
I felt so supportive.
My family was very...
Very much there for me.
Also, I had other friends
who were sick...
And so i...
It pulled me out of myself...
'Cause I could go
help take care of them.
I mean,
i think I mentioned peter...
Who was one of my
dearest friends.
He's one of the first
people I met.
When I moved to san francisco.
He was tall and handsome...
And grew up
in a trailer park...
And he was... He used
to keep these diaries...
And he always wanted them
published after he died.
As diaries of an
illiterate homosexual.
Peter was such an original.
He was just amazing.
He died two weeks
after steve.
He had moved
back here to die.
He and his lover.
I had introduced
he an his lover...
George, and then
they moved to rhode island...
Where george was from...
And then when peter
started getting sick...
They moved back
to san francisco...
'Cause care was better...
And their core group
of friends was here...
And peter was getting
sicker and sicker...
And they told him,
you know...
You have, like,
four or five days to live...
And he was just
in so much discomfort.
That he decided
to take his own life.
So we, you know,
we got together all the drugs...
And the cocktail
that was gonna kill him...
And we had a party.
At his house.
He was in bed.
Sort of like a...
Like a queen holding court.
And we each got to go up
and say our goodbyes.
And I remember him saying...
"You know,
when I was single...
"You were married...
"And when I was married,
you were single.
"Did you think if we'd both
been single at the same time...
We would have been partners?"
And I said, "yeah.
I know we would have been. "
And then he gave me one
of the most passionate kisses.
I've ever had in my life.
And then we all went away.
- I was the charge nurse
in the medical clinic...
And we were starting
the first a. Z.T. Trials...
And dr. Jay had come on
to help that...
And he looked at me one day...
And he said,
"i think we can do this. "
We can do clinical research.
And so we started.
The quest clinical research
center together.
You know, both of us
had never done research.
We just kind of did it,
you know?
Back then there weren't
as many, um, regulations.
The reason that you wanted
to do research back then.
Was because there was nothing...
And all you were doing
was helping people die...
And you just felt like you had
to work on these trials.
And, you know,
figure out what was working...
Figure out
what the problems were.
And get these drugs approved.
So that everybody
could have 'em.
By doing this
and working really hard.
And getting these drugs
on the market...
You know,
maybe we could save lives.
In the early days...
I would go to people's houses.
They were too sick to come in
to get their medicine...
I'd go to their house.
I'd draw their blood.
They would come in
very educated...
Wanting the newest treatment.
Sometimes they would know
more than I did...
'Cause they had, you know,
researched so much.
And, um,
i would learn from them.
There was really
a camaraderie there.
You know, of course,
you know, we made mistakes.
When, you know, when we first
started the azt trials...
We were giving way too much,
you know.
That's why people
got so sick on it...
And it got a bad rap.
If you ever
come to our office...
We have this picture
of this guy.
Who is almost
like a skeleton...
And he's holding a sign...
"Man can't live on azt alone,"
And every time
i see that picture...
It brings me back
to those days of...
We need more treatments.
We need more than azt.
And... And we need them
to happen quickly.
- I remember one fellow
particularly said to me...
"You know, I'm at the end
of my chemical rope,"
Um, and I thought,
"boy, what a phrase from our...
You know,
from this time. "
- These doctors were coming up.
With every kind of pill
that you should take.
It seemed like every day they
were coming up with a new cure...
But my friends
were guinea pigs...
And those cures didn't work...
And they were still dying,
and they were still dying...
And not even just my friends,
my relatives.
You know, my... My cousin,
he died of aids, you know?
And it was, like, the whole
family kept it, you know...
Zips the lip.
Nobody wanted to say
that people were gay, you know...
And we didn't speak about it.
We just said romeo was sick.
And, um...
He just succumbed to...
And he died.
Very quietly.
- I think my biggest fears
around getting sick.
Was... Blindness.
There was a lot,
in the early days of aids...
Of C.M.V., cytomegalovirus...
Which attack the eyes...
And people were
losing their eyesight.
In a short period of time.
...you know, I could deal with pain...
Or they could, you know...
They could manage pain
and all that...
But the idea
of losing my eyesight.
Was really... I think it really,
really scared me.
- We worked on this trial.
For cmv retinitis.
It affected,
infected people's eyes.
We wanted to do research...
So we would ask them if we could
take their eyes when they died.
...you know, that was a hard
conversation to have...
But people were into it.
They were going,
"this awful thing is happening...
"And, you know, if I can give
my eyes to advance this...
I'm willing to do that. "
Any time anybody is ill...
You're meeting them at a very
vulnerable place in their life...
And these relationships can grow
very intensely very quickly...
So it was my job to go
into the autopsy room...
Um, when the pathologist
would come and remove the eyes...
And, uh, I would have
to put them in this little...
Like, urine container...
And then put them
in a paper bag...
And take them to the lab.
And that was really,
really hard.
I mean, these were people
i really knew...
And, uh, loved, liked,
whatever you want to say...
And it was really hard
to, um, watch this.
And something that
I'll never forget, actually.
But one of my patients'
sisters really helped me.
Because she said to me
something like...
"It makes me feel better.
"To know that you're
gonna be with him.
"When this is happening...
"That I was there
to watch over these people...
"And make sure
they were treated with respect...
And that their body
was handled with love,"
And I just was so grateful
for her to give me that job.
- How deeply are americans
worried about aids?
Alos angeles timespoll.
Found that 50% of americans.
Favor quarantine
for aids victims.
48% said they should be
issued special identification.
15% said aids victims
should be tattooed.
We were preoccupied
for those first four years.
With extraordinary
civil rights attacks.
In 1986 in california...
There was an initiative on
the ballot by lyndon larouche...
And it was an initiative
to enforce the quarantine laws.
Relative to hiv in california.
And it was... It was written
in such a way to sound medical...
But the intent as interpreted
by the queer community.
And everyone else was.
This is to stigmatize people
with hiv aids...
And could go so far
as to have them.
Be quarantined
under doctor's orders.
And when that ballot initiative
first was put forward...
Um, it was
overwhelmingly favored.
It was overwhelmingly favored.
And a statewide
campaign formed...
And we organized
throughout california.
To defeat the initiative,
and defeated it.
And it came again
two years later.
It was put forward
a second time.
Um, in... In '88.
And simultaneously,
there were laws that were...
That was people could be fired
for being hiv positive.
People could be
mandatory tested.
Other words, you could be tested
without your consent...
Um, and then those results
made available to people.
Fact is,
the reagan administration.
Has been criminal
in its response...
And they've done so
because they thought.
It was a disease
of the gay community.
And what needs to be done
is a federal program.
That's equivalent to our effort
to get to the moon...
That is equivalent of our effort
to develop the atomic bomb.
If we implement that,
we can stop aids...
But the way to go is not to
start violating civil rights.
I mean, the way to go.
Is not to start turning
american against american.
In times of crisis.
- And I believe
that when you live immorally...
Whether you're
a heterosexual or a homosexual...
And you violate
the laws of god...
And homosexuality does...
You become wide open to every
kind of sin and sickness.
- I think the country
as a whole understood.
That the queer community
was taking care of each other...
That our principal response.
Was food banks
and care programs...
And that it was a response
that america should be proud of...
And that maybe
the pat buchanans.
And the bigots
who were attacking us.
And who basically just
wanted us to die were wrong.
And at a certain point...
Those... Those attacks
just stopped.
They just couldn't
get traction.
To continue to stigmatize
people with aids.
- Aids organizations were just
popping up everywhere.
I mean, that was...
It was called
the san francisco model.
I think one of the reasons
the san francisco model worked.
Was 'cause of the size
of san francisco...
And because of
castro street itself...
That there was a center.
San francisco people
came here not for career.
They came here because
they wanted to live here.
And when aids came along...
The community was sort of
inherent in that.
It... All it needed
was the aids epidemic.
To really make it coalesce.
Whether it was taking care
of peoples' pets.
When they were
in the hospital...
Or bringing them food,
like open hand...
Everybody wanted
to do something.
It was a way
the community came together.
In an amazing way that...
...you know,
politics had never done that.
And it brought together
the women's community.
And the gay women's community
and the gay male community.
In ways that had certainly
never happened before.
- Again and again,
in every situation...
Every circumstance,
there's lesbians there.
Leading the fight.
All the women had friends
who were gay guys.
Who were sick.
I was walking up castro street
one day to my apartment...
And in the early days
of these horrible tests...
People would become anemic,
severely anemic.
There was also
a blood shortage...
Because of hiv and blood.
Lesbians weren't at risk
for hiv...
And... And could donate blood,
and did.
And so I'm walking up
castro street...
And I see a poster...
And I believe it was from
the lesbian caucus.
Of the harvey milk
gay democratic club...
And it said
"our boys need blood.
"Lesbian caucus blood drive.
For people with aids,
san francisco. "
And I remember thinking...
"This is just
a wonderful thing. "
- People came
to san francisco to go...
"What is happening here that
the response is so heartfelt?"
I think what made 5-A
such a spectacular place.
And such a powerful response.
Were the people
who worked there.
It's also true
of shanti project.
I mean...
I mean, literally...
It was thousands of people.
Who volunteered
thousands of hours.
- Every other sunday,
there is a party on ward 5-B.
The hostess is a travel agent
named rita berger...
But the nurses and the patients
know her as rita rocket.
- She came on an easter
to offer to do an easter brunch.
It went so well, turned into,
like, she would come on sundays.
And she would come
with this whole group of men...
Who spent
a good part of the week...
Like, baking all the food
that was gonna be eaten.
- I got together
with some friends...
And we started an organization
called visual aid.
I thought, okay, you know...
Just start in
the community that I know...
Which is artists...
And I was seeing
artist friends.
Who were having to make
the choice between...
...medical care
or art supplies.
When art was...
You know,
it was also therapy.
It keeps you going.
So we started this
organization called visual aid...
Which would give artists
access to art supplies.
We had great t-Shirts...
And we would sell them.
At every street fair
gay pride parade...
And we actually
made a lot of money...
And I remember
in one meeting saying...
"You know, christmastime.
"Is a time when people
are buying lots of gifts...
"And there's no street fairs.
"We should do
something about that.
We should have a place that
we could sell these things. "
And so I had this idea
to start a store.
I had pulled together
a board of directors...
And they wanted
to name it aids mart.
And I said, "no. "
I said,
"I'm gonna pull rank here.
I'm the president, and it's not
gonna be called aids mart. "
They said, "aids mart.
Aid smart. See?"
And I said, "no.
Nobody's gonna shop
at a store called aids mart. "
But "under one roof"
just sounded right.
I remember
working the cash register...
And, you know,
when you're working at a store...
You usually say thank you
to the customer.
I swear, every customer
would just say "thank you.
Thank you for doing this. "
'Cause, you know,
people who weren't.
Doing anything in the
community felt so powerless...
And here was one even
little way, by shopping...
By buying a mug or a t-Shirt
for their aunt tillie.
What ended up happening is...
Most of our volunteers
were people with aids.
Who were on disability.
People were sick.
But they could get out of bed
one day a week.
And work the cash register.
And it became,
for a lot of our volunteers...
Their social life...
Their only time
out of their houses.
- I felt as though
we were more compassionate.
We were going through things.
That other people
didn't go through...
Other people
didn't understand.
It just went over
everybody's head.
And I just remember.
How close that brought
everybody together.
You know, it was just, like,
we didn't care who you were...
But we all had
the same burden.
And that was just, like...
It was just, like, the glue.
- Gay people were never seen
as care givers.
They were seen as, you know,
good time people, you know...
Having fun, being wild.
And, all of a sudden, we were
the ultimate care givers.
It changed people's view
of the gay community.
In a huge way.
I remember
my father saying...
'Cause I was spending so much
time taking care of my friends.
And he was saying,
"these aren't family. "
And I said,
"yes, they are.
This is my family. "
And he got it.
He ended up taking care
of my friends too.
- When I was
in the thick of it...
I became, and I suspect
many people like me did...
Whether you were infected
or uninfected...
It was hard
to imagine the future.
I didn't look much further
than the next week or two...
Because the whole thing
was so...
...impossible to grasp that
all this was really happening.
I went into a long period
of being isolated, very sad.
You know,
all the years at 5-A...
And all of the death
and dying years.
Had really
taken its toll on me.
I had been there,
you know, for three years...
And it...
And it did cross my mind.
Like, "wow, how do you...
how do you stop?
How do you stop working
in a place like this?"
We have a local newspaper
here in san francisco.
Called thebay area reporter...
And there was one issue.
They decided to run
just all the photos.
Of the people that had died
in the last year.
It was just page
after page after page.
After page.
Of all of these
primarily gay men.
Who had died on the unit.
I just felt something,
like, right here.
It was a physical,
like, click.
Because I saw all these faces...
And I was stunned.
By how many of them I knew
from working on the unit.
And i, you know, I realized.
I couldn't.
I just couldn't...
Couldn't do it anymore.
- There's times
when you just think...
"I can't take it anymore.
"I don't want to watch this.
"I don't want to see it.
"There's just too many images.
That I don't want in my head. "
And, you know, your feeling
of wanting to run away.
It was my generation
that was being infected...
And so that, of course,
made it even heavier...
Because, you know,
we were way too young to die.
And I felt like I was too young
to go through all this.
Why... You know,
all this loss.
When you're doing this work...
You have to figure out
how to take care of yourself.
And not feel it all the time.
But sometimes
when somebody would die...
And i'd find myself crying...
I would feel like
i was crying for everyone.
It wasn't just that person.
It just felt overwhelming...
And I just...
'Cause sometimes
you just really had to cry.
You had to let it out.
- I think there were
probably some times.
During the epidemic for me.
Where I would hear
somebody was sick...
And it was just...
I wouldn't call them...
Or i'd just...
I couldn't see them.
It was just too much.
It was just, like, I...
...somehow knew my limits...
And I couldn't take
one more sick friend...
And it felt bad.
But it was... It's so easy.
To just become part
of a caregiver's group.
And, you know,
that's your life.
For the next
many, many months...
And sometimes
I just couldn't do it.
Especially during
the late '80s and early '90s.
I was sick,
and it was just enough.
To get, you know,
get me out of bed.
A lot of times, it was
the side effects of the drugs.
It wasn't just
the disease itself.
You're just so caught up
with dealing...
Whether it's nausea or wasting
or dizziness or fatigue...
That you don't have time.
To worry about
what else could happen.
It's just you're dealing with
what is happening.
Tim was my partner
during this time...
But he was also hiv positive...
And I just didn't think
i could do it again.
I could not
lose another partner...
And I told him that.
But we liked each other.
We had really good
times together.
And we kept
seeing each other...
And after about six months...
He said, you know,
"are we together, or aren't we?
Are you here,
or aren't you?"
And I just, you know, said...
"You know,
i really love this person...
And what happens,
you know, happens. "
We would sort of
take turns being sick.
You know,
i would get really sick...
And then
he would take care of me...
Then he would get really sick,
and I would take care of him...
And thank god we were never
both sick at the same time.
He was not feeling well...
And I called the doctor...
And I said,
"I'm going to the hospital. "
And I bundled him
into the car.
And drive him down
dolores street.
He... I guess an aneurysm.
He just... His mouth
just locked shut...
And there I am driving, like,
80 miles an hour.
Down dolores street...
And try to pry his mouth open...
Just saying,
"breathe, breathe. "
And we were supposed
to go to cpmc...
But I knew that was
way too far away...
And davies was closer,
and I just... I mean...
Thank god I didn't
kill anybody on the street.
I was really going down...
Running every light
on dolores street...
Just honking my horn,
just driving.
And by the time
i got to davies, he was dead.
It was so quick.
I was in
a total state of shock.
I thought I was gonna
lose my mind.
Just felt like
it would be real easy.
To just not be here anymore.
Most of my friends were dead.
And there just didn't seem to be
any reason to stick around.
But I didn't, and I'm really
glad I didn't kill myself.
But it was... It's the only time
I've ever been suicidal.
It just... And it was odd.
It wasn't...
...it wasn't a crazy suicidal.
It just felt very, like...
"I don't... " You know,
"I don't need to be here.
There's no reason
for me to be here. "
It seemed very logical.
Um, I still could understand it,
looking back.
- There was some hope
on treatment...
Some hope on research.
Some of the money
had begun to flow...
And it had paid off
with some early drugs.
Experimental drugs
were more accessible.
Gay activists were meeting
with pharmaceutical companies.
To actually
talk about medicines.
So, yeah, there was...
And then act up comes.
It was, like, this wave
of sort of brilliant...
artistic new yorkers.
Uh, thing about act up...
Is it's true
they were political...
But they were
political artists.
From their very
opening statement...
"Silence equals death,"
It's art, it's culture...
And it was, you know,
it transformed the dialogue.
- 60,000 deaths remain!
Where was george?
- Fight back!
Fight aids!
- Healthcare is awry!
Healthcare is awry!
- That was the first time
i crossed a picket line.
I wanted to go in
to the aids conference...
Because there was information
i wanted to get inside.
And what they were screaming
and hollering about...
I agreed with.
So... But then I realized.
That everybody is doing
what they need to do.
They need to be out there.
Screaming and hollering
and pushing...
Because things don't happen
unless you push.
And I needed to go in
to get that information.
So I could take care of them.
And... So it made me...
Once I figured that out...
It was a little easier
to cross that picket line.
- Act up! Fight back!
Fight aids!
- I mean, that was when drugs
weren't on the fast track...
Where it took ten years
to get a drug approved...
And the activists
really worked.
For that to change.
- Neil jaeger.
James martin case.
- One of the ways
i came back into the world.
Was through the names project...
Which is the aids
memorial quilt...
Which cleve jones started.
- And my friend,
marvin feldman.
- He came up with the idea
that people would make panels...
Memorializing their friends
and children and lovers.
It was a creative, positive way
to focus their grief...
Then sew it all together...
And make a powerful,
political statement.
- When they went to washington
and unfolded those blankets...
It was like,
you know, to me...
Lotus flower after lotus flower
after lotus flower...
And each petal was a person,
you know?
And it was so powerful.
It was so powerful.
You didn't even
have to say anything.
The tears would just come.
- How are you?
- I'm good.
Nervous, but good.
- Sure.
Results are negative.
- Okay. Good.
- Good.
- Good.
- I still wanted
to be involved.
After my work
in the hospital...
It was fairly easy
for me to translate...
Take those skills...
And move into working
in testing clinics...
And working with people
who are at risk for hiv...
As well as occasionally
having to tell people.
That they were infected.
- When the test occurred...
One of the main
things we could do.
Is figure out how
we're doing on prevention...
And we were able
to turn that around...
So the likelihood that more and
more people were being infected.
Had... Had been changed.
So less despair.
Less sense of absolute crisis.
We're now
getting into a sense of.
Maybe there's
a place to go here.
- Some things
seemed to be working.
I'm not saying
that there was a cure...
But there was a slow down.
You know, people weren't
dropping like flies anymore.
Some people were, uh,
hanging on.
There was this one guy.
He was in a wheelchair.
He used to come
by in a bicycle...
And then
he was in a wheelchair...
And then he had a patch
over his eye...
And I really hated
to look at him...
Because I remember
when this guy.
Used to come by on his bicycle.
And buy flowers for his sister...
And we would just laugh
and everything...
And I couldn't
laugh at him anymore...
Because he was coming by
in a wheelchair...
And it was like he was
almost on his way out...
And I just thought,
"god, where are you?
Look at what's happening. "
And he was one of the first.
Who the next time I saw him...
He wasn't in a wheelchair.
He was walking.
He had a cane.
And then the next
time I saw him...
He didn't have that
eye patch on anymore.
And then,
hey, I swear to you...
i saw him at my flower stand.
On his bicycle.
And he was back.
He wasn't back like he was
in the beginning...
But, you know, I'm not the way
i was 20 years ago either...
But he was there, and he had
gone through the storm...
And he had
weathered the storm...
And his spirit was just
as bright and effervescent.
As it was in the beginning.
- The washington post
came out with a headline...
And it showed death from aids...
And it was a graph
going down.
And it basically said
"cocktail proves effective.
Against hiv aids. "
This means that aids work
as we know it is transformed.
- I remember my friend ben
saying in the old days.
That he would never
go to costco.
And buy one of those
big things of toilet paper...
'Cause he didn't think
he'd ever use it all up...
And now he can.
That's the difference.
I would never take a commission.
More than five
or six months out...
'Cause I didn't think
i'd be able to finish it.
Now I'll take a commission
that's, you know, a year out.
And now I have
a partner to my love...
And whom I hope to be with.
For a very, very long time...
And so I'm imagining a future.
I'm allowing myself
to imagine a future.
And that's...
That's scary too.
There's still... I mean,
i can feel it right now.
There's, like,
butterflies in my stomach...
'Cause, like, I'm hoping.
I'm feeling that hope again.
And I could lose it.
And I have
to remember that.
'Cause, you know,
you get sick, and bam.
You just sink
right down again.
- My friend john
who has studied buddhism.
Talks about
this metaphor of people.
Who have been through
some huge experience of loss...
Who cannot find their way back,
if you will...
To the land of the living.
But they still walk the earth.
Hungry for connection.
Hungry for some way to regain
a sense of life and balance...
And that... I do...
When I walk through
the castro sometimes...
I see... I see people who
haven't been able to do that...
And that's something that could
have easily happened to me...
And that I could have,
you know...
Become one of those
hungry ghosts...
And, luckily, for me...
...it changed.
I met someone.
And I encountered life again.
Here was this man
walking down the street...
And thank god I got it together,
and I said hello.
And he's younger than me.
much younger than me.
And it's been a powerful,
powerful experience.
To love and be
very close to someone.
Who's younger than me
who did not have.
The experience that I had
with the aids epidemic.
And all that terrible loss...
And go on with my life
having that inside me...
And it not be
the all-Consuming...
...experience that I had had.
And as much
as I think about my father.
And what he went through
in the war...
I don't want, like,
my war to do to me.
What it did to him.
- In january of 2007,
i became the executive director.
Of the glbt historical society
in san francisco.
And, uh,
and it surprised me.
That basically
the conversation about aids.
That i'd been having
for so many years.
Wasn't still going on
in that group...
Or in the community... The glbt
community of san francisco.
Because, for me,
it had continued...
'Cause I was doing
international aids work.
And working with aids groups.
So suddenly no one
was talking about aids.
There weren't people with aids.
Who everyone was sort of...
If they were around,
they were...
Took me a while to figure out
who they were...
And, uh, an entire,
you know, part of, uh...
...how I had perceived
the community had changed.
- I don't have to worry
when I'm old...
You know,
and looking back at my life.
That I didn't do anything.
And in terms of my politics...
This was the thing
that I got to do the most.
Without all these people
In these clinical trials...
We would not be
where we are today.
And I really wish.
That some of them
were around today.
To see where we are.
Because... I don't know.
They just gave a lot.
- This tragedy,
it taught us how to be humble.
It taught us
how to be honest.
It taught us how to...
To love.
In spite of what's
at the end of the tunnel.
You know, how to be
a little bit more considerate.
Of another person.
It... It showed us
how to find spirituality.
It taught me.
I can only speak for myself.
It taught me
how to find my spirit...
And how to, you know...
Make my flame brighter.
- You know, it's, like,
the aids epidemic is not over.
I still have friends
who are living with hiv.
Every once in a while,
someone I know becomes infected.
I mean, it continues.
What has stopped continuing...
At least in san francisco
and in most of the...
Of the developed world...
Is the... The vast amount
of sickness and death.
I would really like
to be able to live long enough.
To know, like,
how does the epidemic.
Actually come to an end?
will the treatments come.
And... And finally
and effectively stop people.
From becoming sicker?
And will the vaccine come,
And stop people from being able
to transmit and acquire it...
And... And will it all
just finally...
...finally just stop?
- You know, when people say,
"how did you get through it?"
It's like,
"i don't know. "
You know?
You just do.
And everybody does.
I mean, anybody
who's got cancer or aids...
And they're just like, "oh,
you're, you know, so amazing.
You... You've
gotten through this. "
It's like,
"do I have a choice?"
You know.
I want to stay alive...
And I'm gonna take care
of myself the best I can...
And you just do it.
And it's not heroic.
You just do it.
And the same thing
with losing a partner.
...you know,
so many, you know...
...most people in the world
lose partners...
You know, at one time
in their lives or another...
And you just...
You live through it...
And it's horrible...
But you do live through it.
I know I have so many friends
who died so young.
That's... I mean, that's...
...that, to me,
is the most painful part.
What would the world be like now
if they were alive?
It would be different.
It would be very different.
I mean,
so many powerful people...
Talented people.
I miss...
I miss a lot of them.
A lot.