HIV in the '80s: 'People didn't want to kiss you on the cheek'






In 1985, Edmund White had five or six published books behind him, a Swiss lover with him and the outcome of an HIV test ahead of him. When the results came in, White told his partner:

"I'm a good enough novelist to know how this is going to work out. I'm going to be positive, you're going to be negative, you're going to be very nice about it, but you're going to break up with me within a year."

By many accounts, White is a good novelist -- a great one, actually, having written numerous acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction.

Unfortunately, his storytelling sensibility foretold how the HIV tests would turn out and how he would lose his lover because of the dire prognosis: only two or three years left to live.

Like so many gay men in the 1980s, White struggled with an illness that seemed like a death sentence and isolated him from those who feared contagion. But he didn't let himself be defined by his illness, nor did he try to hide it....



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