A Charmed Life


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for Eve and for Adam

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When I first started this blog, I knew one day I would write about Eve and Adam, two people who are no longer with us but who deserve to be remembered not least for the impact they made on my life.

Once upon a time in the 80s there was a little girl called Eve who had been born premature and one of the life-saving blood transfusions she was given at birth infected her with a then little known virus. Unfortunately she lived in an ignorant country where, because of the stigma attached to this virus, people would cross the road to avoid being in close contact with her and they made it difficult for her to do normal kiddie activities like going to kindergarten. This prejudice eventually led to Eve and her family moving countries to somewhere she would be embraced and know nothing but love.

The ignorant country was Australia, the welcoming country was New Zealand and the little known virus was HIV. Eve would live till she was eleven and half and in her short lifetime she would touch many hearts including that of Princess Diana and mine. I never got to meet Eve but I collected stories about her from magazines and would watch her television interviews because back then I guess you could say she became the unofficial face of HIV/AIDS in New Zealand.

It was because of Eve I gave a speech on AIDS to my form two class, it was 1986 I was twelve and I remember writing with a thick black marker pen ‘AIDS’ by my name as my speech topic. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to choose it except that I knew Eve had been treated badly and that there was a stigma attached to this illness which I didn’t understand – my logic then (and still) was someone was sick they needed to be helped and loved no matter what. As for the speech, I had to have most of what I ended up saying, first explained to me by my aunt who was a nurse; imagine being that young and trying to understand the workings of the immune system and male coupling (I didn’t even know about heterosexual sex and here I was learning about male on male action!) After this informative and somewhat shocking education, I had to recite my finished speech in front of my teacher and headmistress so they could deem it appropriate before I was allowed to give it in front of my class. To both their credit they didn’t censor me at all, in fact they were both really encouraging.

I have often wondered if, because of this encouragement and my aunt’s thorough explanation, that is why I never got caught up in the controversy of HIV/AIDS, because haters were all around me, remember this was in the 80s when there was very little known about it, no cure in sight, very little funding provided by governments around the world to find a cure yet millions of people dying – which combined created widespread ignorance. I remember this one DJ on the radio who without fail whenever he played a WHAM song would follow up with ‘and that was by We Help AIDS Multiply,’ wonder how his life turned out, karma’s a bitch.

To this day that speech I gave is the one I am most proud of and I have given a fair few in my time. In hindsight knowing how much intolerance there has been and still is with HIV/AIDS, I am proud that I stood up against the haters. Because of Eve I would continue to be an advocate for the AIDS cause, and I still am.

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Then there was my Adam. Still feels wrong to use the past tense in regards to him. To know him was to know a very present person, his being filled every room he walked into. Adam and I met in our teens and we bonded over our love for Madonna, Basquiat, Keith Haring and Mapplethorpe. We would talk for hours about taking a trip together to New York to see the works of our favourite artists and watch Madonna perform at Madison Square Garden and we spent many a Friday night dancing away at Wellington staple Alfie’s. Our friendship grew distant when he moved to London to do his OE but we kept in touch via the odd letter – well letters from me. I think in the whole time he was away I got maybe three postcards from him. Then after four years away, he slipped quietly back to New Zealand and settled down to suburban life with his boyfriend. I caught up with him a few times but I had moved on in my life so our catch ups got rarer and rarer until they stopped.

About a year after having had no contact I bumped into his mother and I asked after Adam. She looked at me with such sadness that I felt a pang in my heart. She went on to tell me he was unwell and that he would love to hear from me. I can’t remember why but I didn’t make contact with him for another three months. When I did, he invited me over to his house and I remembering thinking it odd because we had never been to each other’s homes before, but the reason for the home invite became plainly obvious the second I stepped into his bedroom.

My friend Adam was a beautiful boy, he had modelled briefly in Europe that’s how beautiful he was on the outside and on the inside his soul was equally beautiful, he had such natural charm and gentleness. I think I was always a little in love with him. This was the Adam in my mind as I walked through his house not the man I saw lying in bed, so altered by illness, so frail I thought he would break when I hugged him, I was so shocked my grief caused my body to convulse. After many tears I learnt he was dying of AIDS. It remains one of the most surreal moments of my life. That night I slept beside him holding his brittle hand. I remember I kept waking up through the night to check if he was still breathing. He died less than three weeks later.

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I was twelve years old when I first heard of Eve’s plight and illness, through her I learnt social responsibility. I was in my twenties when my Adam died of AIDS and he is missed every day (every time I go to New York, it isn’t the same without him). For Eve and for Adam and for the others who are no longer with us and for those who continue to live in different stages of this disease I continue to be a wearer of the red ribbon and an activist for an AIDS free generation. #WorldAIDSDay #GlobalCitizen #WeCanBeatThis

Sat Nam