May 8, 2020

David and Dominique

David Gebel and Dominique Crisden have a couple of things in common: they both live in New York, they’re both gay, and they’re both HIV-positive. But David is in his 60s, and has been living with the disease since moving to New York in the ‘80s. Dominique, on the other hand, is only in his early 30s. From our friends at WNYC's “Nancy”, this episode features a very special conversation between David and Dominique about the similarities and differences in their experiences living with HIV.

Special thanks to Krishna Stone at Gay Men's Health Crisis, an HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy organization in New York. 

This episode was produced by Tobin Low, Kathy Tu and Matt Collette. Music in this episode by Jeremy Bloom and Alex Overington. Theme by Alexander Overington.

Note: A version of this episode first ran on May 7, 2017.

Support our work. Become a Nancy member today at Nancypodcast.org/donate.    

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JAD ABUMRAD: Hi, guys. How's it going?

 

KATHY TU: Hi!

 

JAD: Let's see. Maybe you should introduce yourselves.

 

TOBIN LOW: Kathy, do you want to go first?

 

KATHY: No, you go first.

 

JAD: Oh. There you go. There you go. I love it.

 

TOBIN: We're very polite. [laughs] I'm -- I'm Tobin Low. I'm not gonna say it like an apology. I'm Tobin Low.

 

KATHY: [laughs] I didn't hear it as an apology, but you're Tobin Low. I'm Kathy Tu.

 

JAD: And you guys host a show.

 

TOBIN: Yes. We co-host a show called Nancy.

 

JAD: Okay. So hey, it's Jad. Radiolab. So what I'd love to do in this episode and the next is introduce you or re-introduce you to some people we think are doing amazing work, starting with Tobin and Kathy. They sort of come from the Radiolab family. Kathy was a contributor. Tobin worked with me on season one of More Perfect. And about three years ago, they formed a show, now a much-beloved show called Nancy that is all about LGBTQ issues. Although you might hear that and think, "Oh, it's deadly serious. capital I Important."

 

TOBIN: But you know, like, Nancy's actually, like, a lot of things, I think. We're funny, we're heartfelt, we talk about pop culture and family and dating. We talk about a whole bunch of stuff.

 

JAD: This is the thing I love most about you guys is that you, in a world where everybody takes themselves too seriously, everybody of all sorts, you guys do and don't. Somehow, like, you marry the do's and the don't in a way that I think is very unique.

 

TOBIN: That is a high compliment.

 

KATHY: Thank you, Jad. Yeah. Some would say that we could be more serious. But you know what?

 

JAD: [laughs]

 

TOBIN: [laughs]

 

KATHY: You know what? I think it's working for us.

 

JAD: Okay. So today, we're gonna feature a Nancy episode that Tobin and Kathy produced with somebody who works at Radiolab, actually. A guy named David Gebel. And I don't think it needs much set-up from here, so we're just gonna let it play. Here it is.

 

TOBIN: Kathy?

 

KATHY: Yes, Tobin.

 

TOBIN: Take my hands.

 

KATHY: Okay.

 

TOBIN: We are best friends.

 

KATHY: Obviously.

 

TOBIN: Which is hilarious, because you told me a story the other day that I'm obsessed with about, let's call him "Co-worker Kevin."

 

KATHY: Co-worker Kevin! I was telling Co-worker Kevin about how after the season is over, you and I, Tobin, are going on vacation together!

 

TOBIN: I'm so excited!

 

KATHY: And his response to me was, "Oh, so, like, you guys are really friends!"

 

TOBIN: How dare you, Co-worker Kevin!

 

KATHY: God, Kevin!

 

TOBIN: This is real!

 

KATHY: This is a real, BFF thing we have going.

 

TOBIN: We are best friends forever.

 

KATHY: I am no actor. This would not work.

 

TOBIN: [laughs] Okay. To be fair to Co-worker Kevin ...

 

KATHY: Mm-hmm.

 

TOBIN: It does get at this thing, which is not all coworkers are best friends.

 

KATHY: I guess.

 

TOBIN: And in fact, like, I don't know a ton about the people I work with, to be totally honest.

 

KATHY: Yeah, that's true.

 

TOBIN: One of the things that happened, and we've talked about this before Kathy, is that, like, when we got the show that, like, co-worker wall started coming down.

 

KATHY: Yes.

 

TOBIN: Like, people started, you know, pulling us to the side and sharing stories or sending messages.

 

KATHY: Uh-huh. Everybody's got a story they wanna share, huh?

 

TOBIN: They do. And especially the person that we are here to talk about today.

 

KATHY: Mm-hmm.

 

TOBIN: David Gebel.

 

KATHY: Mr. David Gebel!

 

TOBIN: One of my favorite people who works here.

 

KATHY: Yes! He does admin work for two of the biggest shows here: Radiolab and The Takeaway.

 

TOBIN: He also brings joy and baked goods wherever he goes.

 

KATHY: Always. He's so nice.

 

TOBIN: He is! And David's one of those people who started opening up and sharing these stories. You know, he's 59, he moved to New York in the '80's, and he's had all these incredible experiences. And the other day, he shared something that I did not know about him. And it came with a request for me to help him out.

 

KATHY: And you did.

 

TOBIN: Of course. And that's where today's episode came from.

 

[NANCY INTRO]

 

DAVID GEBEL: We’re finally doing it, Tobin.

 

TOBIN: It’s all happening.

 

DAVID: [laughs]

 

TOBIN: We’ve been talking about it forever, and it’s finally happening.

 

DAVID: I know, I know.

 

TOBIN: Can I have you introduce yourself?

 

DAVID: Okay, sure. I’m David Gebel. I work here at WNYC.

 

TOBIN: Yeah. [laughs]

 

DAVID: And that’s how we know each other.

 

TOBIN: And that’s how we know each other.

 

DAVID: I know.

 

TOBIN: Which is -- it was crazy to me, because when I was getting ready for this conversation, I was thinking about what questions I had for you. And one of them was so basic, because even though we work together, I don’t know, like, where are you from originally?

 

DAVID: Milwaukee.

 

TOBIN: You’re from Milwaukee?

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm. Milwaukee. Born and raised in Milwaukee. Bopped around to a couple different universities. Graduated from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, the time Mary Moore was actually throwing her hat in the air.

 

TOBIN: Uh-huh.

 

DAVID: They were filming it there at the time. It was great.

 

TOBIN: And what year was that that you moved to New York?

 

DAVID: 1980.

 

TOBIN: 1980.

 

DAVID: Yeah, 1980. I moved right into it. Steven and I met in -- he was in graduate school and I was in undergrad, and he was a native New Yorker.

 

TOBIN: Mm-hmm.

 

DAVID: So I had it so easy, because he moved back, like, six months before me, and he’s calling me trying to pick out an apartment in New York. And I don’t know New York. And we ended up on 14th between 8th and 9th. It was a dump, but it was good and we made it cute. I was so -- I was so in love and out of Milwaukee and living in New York. And -- and we were setting up house. Oh! I’d like -- it was a time to be in love and be -- a time to be young. And yes, it was a sexual playground. You couldn’t go home. You couldn’t walk home without someone cruising you on the street or you giving into it and going into their apartment or the alley or the doorway or -- I mean it sounds ridiculous, but we didn’t have cell phones, so you’re not Grinder-ing, you’re cruising. And it was fun. It was really fun. We paid for it a little bit, but it was fun.

 

TOBIN: Was there -- was there a moment for you that you felt like you realized that it was changing, that sort of carefree atmosphere?

 

DAVID: Yeah, when you saw people starting to get sick, and saw people on the streets in New York in the mid- to late-'80s looking gaunt, looking skeletal, with that lipodystrophy-sunken look. And it was common. You saw it all the time. All the time. That was what put it in the air, because I was not an activist. I was not as angry at Reagan as I am now. I was not ACTing-UP. I just wanted to keep dancing and drinking and all of that. But I saw it around me. And then people died.

 

TOBIN: When did Steven find out? When did you find out about your status?

 

DAVID: Steven died in ’88. He died in January of ’88, January 28th, 1988. And, you know, he was just getting sick. They didn’t give a -- they used to call it ARC. And he would kind of go from doctor-to-doctor to get a diagnosis he liked better, or that he could deal with. I look back at pictures now, the last Halloween party he threw, and he was dead then three months later. You can see it. I mean, now we know what it looks like.

 

TOBIN: Right.

 

DAVID: You can see it.

 

TOBIN: Wow, it was fast then. It was super-fast.

 

DAVID: He was pretty fast.

 

TOBIN: Yeah.

 

DAVID: How old are you?

 

TOBIN: I’m 29.

 

DAVID: Which is how old I was when he died.

 

TOBIN: Hmm.

 

DAVID: How old I was when I tested positive. See, I told you I’d cry.

 

TOBIN: That’s okay.

 

DAVID: I knew I would. I can’t talk about this whole thing without it. Oh my God.

 

TOBIN: You want to take a minute?

 

DAVID: No. You have a nice box of Kleenex. [laughs] No, because it’s just part of it, you know?

 

TOBIN: Yeah.

 

DAVID: It’s just part of it. And I cry at commercials, so I’m an easy mark.

 

TOBIN: So you had this idea.

 

DAVID: I've been HIV positive 30 years so I thought, "I have no idea now what a young person testing positive, or trying not to test positive, goes through. All I know is the AIDS crisis. We're not in the middle of a crisis, but I thought, "I don’t know what they think. And maybe there are things they want me to know about them that I am unaware of." I mean, I was really curious. Like, did we go through all that and nobody knows anything? And how do we pass that on? Did we -- did we go through a plague for nothing? Did we learn anything? So that’s what made me think about it, because I realized this is not an assumed thing. And I realized with my straight friends here at the station, knowledge of the AIDS crisis is not an assumed thing they know about. It’s just so part of my being. I mean, I fucking take pills every day. You can’t ever forget it. So it’s -- I've realized my reference point is way off. It’s my reference point.

 

TOBIN: So David, what we did is we reached out to this big New York organization. It's called Gay Mens' Health Crisis.

 

DAVID: Yeah, GMHC.

 

TOBIN: Right, GMHC. And it's a group that's been doing HIV and AIDS work since the epidemic started.

 

DAVID: It was founded because of the crisis.

 

TOBIN: And they've been doing HIV and AIDS work ever since.

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm.

 

TOBIN: And so not only do they work with people from your generation, they actually work with people who have become positive since then. And so we told them what you wanted to do and they found us someone for you to talk to. He's a guy named Dominique Crisden. He's 32, HIV-positive. He used to work for them, actually.

 

DAVID: Okay.

 

TOBIN: And he's gonna join you in the studio.

 

DAVID: Terrific.

 

KATHY: That’s coming up after the break.

 

JAD: This is Radiolab. I'm Jad Abumrad. We'll be back in a moment.

 

JAD: This is Radiolab. I'm Jad Abumrad. We are featuring a story from our friends at Nancy on this episode. Let's get back to the story of David and Dominique.

 

DOMINIQUE CRISDEN: I’m a part of a community called the house and ball community.

 

DAVID: Got to tell the old guy what that is.

 

DOMINIQUE: The ballroom scene. So the House ...

 

DAVID: That’s me. Tell daddy what that is.

 

DOMINIQUE: So I’ll give you -- first I’ll give you a little bit.

 

DAVID: Okay.

 

DOMINIQUE: Do you remember Madonna, she came out with the video -- just a little -- yeah. So Voguing, right? Voguing comes from the house and ball scene.

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm.

 

DOMINIQUE: It's ...

 

DAVID: Paris is Burning.

 

DOMINIQUE: Paris is Burning, yes.

 

DAVID: I do know a little bit.

 

DOMINIQUE: So it’s like a -- it’s like a family, right?

 

DAVID: Okay.

 

DOMINIQUE: It’s a little -- it’s a subculture. And it's family. We create these houses which are families. And inside these houses we do have parent roles, like we have the mother of the house, the father of the house, and things of that nature.

 

DAVID: Do you live together?

 

DOMINIQUE: No, so we don’t live together. So we call it a house because it was to conform to, like, designer houses like the House of Gucci.

 

DAVID: Oh, okay.

 

DOMINIQUE: The House of Cartier, things like that.

 

DAVID: And then how did that lead you to GMHC?

 

DOMINIQUE: So GMHC had a house called the House of Latex, and it was a prevention house. And not only were they a part of the community as walking and competing in the categories such as role, vogue, and runway, they also were, like, a prevention house. So they would be at the balls handing out condoms and information and referrals.

 

DAVID: And you were a part of that house?

 

DOMINIQUE: Yes, I joined -- I did a little community service with the house. Even though I wasn’t officially a Latex, because I was always in my own house.

 

DAVID: What’s your house?

 

DOMINIQUE: My house currently is the House of Saint Laurent. I am the mother of the New York City chapter. But at that time it was the House of Prodigy. So ...

 

DAVID: When did you first test positive?

 

DOMINIQUE: Two thou ...

 

DAVID: First. What a stupid way to say it. You only do it once.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah.

 

DAVID: When did you test positive?

 

DOMINIQUE: 2008. I felt really invincible at the time.

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm.

 

DOMINIQUE: Because even though I was ...

 

DAVID: Did you think it was possible at all? Did you even consider it?

 

DOMINIQUE: No, I didn’t. No, and it’s so -- it was such an ignorant part for me.

 

DAVID: Yeah?

 

DOMINIQUE: I was very ignorant because I was like, I don’t do drugs. I don’t -- you know, I don’t hang with "those" people, quote. I don’t do risky behavior. I’m in a relationship. I’m faithful, my partner’s faithful. So there’s no way that I can be positive. My partner couldn’t, even if he was cheating, you know, he had a really fit body, took care of himself, health conscious. He doesn’t have nothing. I would know if he had something. And at the same time, like I said, I was working at GMHC where all the information’s there, right? But I still felt invincible and I still was ignorant around the fact that anyone can get it.

 

DAVID: What made you go get the test?

 

DOMINIQUE: I got a call from someone just saying that I should get tested, that my lover was cheating on me, being messy. The person was being messy, but at the same time I was like, "Okay, whatever."

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm.

 

DOMINIQUE: And I went to go get tested. And it was a shock to me when I first went to go get tested, because they -- you know, they said, "You know, you are HIV-positive." I'm like, "What, me? No."

 

DAVID: Tell me about that day.

 

DOMINIQUE: Wow. The day I found out that I was positive still is like -- it's still very touchy and painful. I was talking to my friend because my friend tested me, and I could tell something was a little different because when he came in his whole aura was like, "Oh, Dominique, I’ve got to tell you something." So I knew right then and there. And my stomach dropped. I broke into a sweat. [sighs] And I just, like, thought my life was over. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know -- I really didn’t know how I was going to, like, make it, right? So I didn’t know if I could tell anyone. How would they look at me? How would my job look at me? Being that I'm a ...

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

 

DOMINIQUE: Right? How am I telling people to use safe sex and ...

 

DAVID: You’re working in prevention -- you’re working in prevention central, yeah.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah. Will I lose my job is what I thought, right?

 

DAVID: What happened?

 

DOMINIQUE: So I sat in that -- I sat on that for a couple -- maybe a month or two, just me knowing my status and keeping it to myself and not disclosing to anyone.

 

DAVID: You didn’t tell anybody?

 

DOMINIQUE: I didn’t tell anyone. I stopped talking to my lover at the time. And, you know, I just -- I was like it’s not going to work out. I didn’t confront him or anything. I just sat in that space.

 

DAVID: So you didn’t even tell him?

 

DOMINIQUE: No.

 

DAVID: Wow. Wow!

 

DOMINIQUE: I didn’t even tell him. And so the first time I ever disclosed it to someone was we were having a group at GMHC, and we was working at -- we was working with at-risk youth.

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm.

 

DOMINIQUE: And there was this bold and brave young guy who was sharing his story with us. He was surrounded by his peers, and they all looked like, "Wow. Okay." And then they -- they started making little comments like, "Well, we knew you were sick because you were very thin." And it kind of, like, hurt me, right?

 

DAVID: Yeah.

 

DOMINIQUE: And then I said, "Well, you can’t never tell the way a person looks that they have HIV." And I don’t know what came upon me, but I said, "I have HIV. Do I look like I have HIV?" And you can hear a pin drop. Even my boss looked at me. And I was like, "Yeah, I just did it. I just did it." And that’s when the first time I really felt free. I felt free.

 

DAVID: Wow. And so from that point on, were you at ease? Were you ...

 

DOMINIQUE: I was at ease for a while. Being that I had the support, like I said, of GMHC. So that’s where I worked at. That’s where I spent a lot of my time at. So everything was great at -- what I believed that I was great, right? I thought everything was fine because I was there with people that supported me, that loved me, that understood, right? And didn’t judge me.

 

DAVID: But what if you go outside that circle?

 

DOMINIQUE: However -- exactly.

 

DAVID: Yeah, what if you -- yeah.

 

DOMINIQUE: So when I started to venture outside of the circle and started, like, having a life and going to the clubs, and even in the ballroom scene where I was so respected, right? I was popular in the ballroom scene because I was a trophy winner. I was very popular, and I had a lot of people looking up to me as a leader.

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm.

 

DOMINIQUE: So when I did come out, that changed. And ...

 

DAVID: Came out about your status, it changed?

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah, it changed. Yeah.

 

DAVID: How?

 

DOMINIQUE: Stigma, and ...

 

DAVID: Did people say something to you? Or did you just ...

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah, dirty little things. You’ll hear them mumble. You’ll hear them say stuff. I remember one time I was inside of a club, and I walked in a club and for some reason it was a really dark club and a spotlight was shining on this one person. And I could read his lips, right? And he said, "He’s cute." And his friend turned around and was like, "Child, he’s dying." So that’s like a term they say about -- when they’re kind of defining somebody with HIV. He was like, "Child, he’s dying." And I was just like, take a step back. And I was like, "Okay, time to go home." And I started to experience that more and more, right? I just started hearing things in my own community that didn’t sit right with me, people being judgmental, and so much hate, right?

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm. I’m surprised at that, because I thought if you’re testing positive now, you’ve got information and you’ve got medication and you have all these things I didn’t have.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah.

 

DAVID: But I had that same kind of stigma.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah, stigma’s still -- let me tell you something, stigma is still alive.

 

DAVID: I’m un -- I’m sadly surprised to hear it.

 

DOMINIQUE: It’s hurtful, right? And especially for people when I say that looks like me, because we have to -- we have to go through like what it is to be gay, right?

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm.

 

DOMINIQUE: We know how hard that is, right? So not only do I have to go through that, I have to go through what it means to be Black and gay, right? What it means to be Black and gay and HIV-positive. What it means to be Black and gay and HIV-positive as well as being feminine, right? What it means to be black and gay and positive, feminine, and believing in God. And that’s a lot.

 

DAVID: And you come from a really religious family.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah.

 

DAVID: The day you told your family, how long after you tested positive?

 

DOMINIQUE: Oh, what was that? Maybe ...

 

DAVID: Did it take a little time? Or did it ...

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah, it took a little time. It took a little time.

 

DAVID: Yeah?

 

DOMINIQUE: And I didn’t disclose it, I kind of got caught. My mother was snooping around and saw some paper.

 

DAVID: Okay. And on the paper?

 

DOMINIQUE: It was from HRA-HASA. I was signing up for a program to help me with, like, my medicine and Medicaid, and all that. And she’s, "What is this about?" And I was like, "Oh, that's someone I work for." And mom being mom, she did her investigation and that’s when she found out. And, you know, it was like the Batman line. Like, one call she made, and called all my aunts, all my uncles, my grandmother, and everyone was like, "Hey, how long you been positive? Why you didn’t tell us?"

 

DAVID: I’m glad she found that paper.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah, I’m glad she found it, too. [laughs]

 

DAVID: Would you have gotten around to telling her?

 

DOMINIQUE: I don’t know. Never say never.

 

DAVID: Yeah. Parents are different.

 

DOMINIQUE: Parents are different. But I didn’t want to be a disappointment. I’m the oldest child as well.

 

DAVID: Okay.

 

DOMINIQUE: I have little brothers. And at that time I was like, "Oh, this is a disappointment, right? I come to New York to be this great person, to be the first person in my family to go to college, and to be somebody. And now look," right? Because when you think about somebody being gay, the first thing they think is, "Oh, you’re gonna catch AIDS," right? So now I have to go back and ...

 

DAVID: See, that ...

 

DOMINIQUE: ... say, "Hey, I’m gay and I got AIDS."

 

DAVID: Yeah. Actually go back to that. From my age and testing positive so long ago?

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah.

 

DAVID: We didn’t know we were gonna get AIDS.

 

DOMINIQUE: So I know when I came out it was like ...

 

DAVID: Oh yeah, and things have changed huge.

 

DOMINIQUE: "You’re gay? You’re gonna be gay? You’re gonna get sick," right? That’s what it was.

 

DAVID: Yeah. See that’s the -- that’s the comment that made me go, "Huh?"

 

DOMINIQUE: And nowadays it’s not even that. Now it's like, "You’re gonna be gay? You don’t have to be sick if you take this blue pill. Take PrEP and you don’t got to worry about ever getting sick."

 

DAVID: What do you take?

 

DOMINIQUE: So I take Complera.

 

DAVID: Don’t even know the name of that one.

 

DOMINIQUE: Oh yes, yes, yes. I take Complera. It’s a cocktail.

 

DAVID: Okay.

 

DOMINIQUE: And I can’t pronounce, like, so many of the different ones inside of it.

 

DAVID: The pieces of it? Yeah.

 

DOMINIQUE: I just -- I take Complera.

 

DAVID: And it sounds so pretty, "I’m taking Complera."

 

DOMINIQUE: It sounds pretty. It’s pretty now.

 

DAVID: Right.

 

DOMINIQUE: It’s pretty knowing that one pill, that all I have to do is ...

 

DAVID: Is it really one pill?

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah, that’s all I have to do is take ...

 

DAVID: Oh, you dog. I’ve never taken only one pill.

 

DOMINIQUE: Well, I take one pill for that. So I have a lot of other things going on.

 

DAVID: Yeah.

 

DOMINIQUE: I fell into a depression, stopped taking my meds at one point, and I contracted meningitis, right? I was drinking a lot. I started facing, like, liver failure. So I take a lot of pills, but not for the HIV, but complications from the HIV, right?

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm. Oh, me too. I mean, at one point I was getting high cholesterol because of one of my HIV drugs, so I had to take extra cholesterol medicine on top of it because I couldn’t stop the AIDS drug. It was an old one. They don’t even give that to any people anymore.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah. But, being life, like knowing I had to take these pills and knowing that it’s a part of surviving is what gets me through it, right?

 

DAVID: Do you feel bad about being HIV-positive?

 

DOMINIQUE: No, no.

 

DAVID: Okay.

 

DOMINIQUE: I don’t feel bad at all. I don’t even regret it. Some people say, "If you could go back and change everything that had been, what would you do different?" And I’m being totally honest, and I don’t know if ...

 

DAVID: Be totally honest, please.

 

DOMINIQUE: I wouldn’t change anything, right? I made a conscious decision to be in love, right? If I had to change one thing I will say I wish I was in a relationship with someone that was more honest. But they were like -- people were saying, you know, "Would you have wrapped it up?" And I know that’s not a safe-sex measure but no, I probably wouldn’t use the condom because I was in a trusting relationship. We were getting tested, right? So I wouldn’t change anything. And I just think this is my purpose in life. I think things happen. That’s all a part of my great destiny, which is God’s plan.

 

DAVID: I don’t know if I would change anything either, because it was wonderful to come to New York and be in love and not have to think about HIV and AIDS.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah.

 

DAVID: And so it made sense when people were starting to discover like oh, it’s sex is transmitting it.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah.

 

DAVID: And then the Larry Kramers and the activists were saying, "Well then, stop having sex." Well, I was so happy to be able to.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah.

 

DAVID: You don’t want to hear that. Oh, wow. And I’m long-time alcohol/drug recovery. Would I undo that? Getting sober was one of the best things that ever happened. But you have to go to a really messy place to get there.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah.

 

DAVID: But I wouldn’t undo it.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah, me neither.

 

DAVID: And yeah, I think ...

 

DOMINIQUE: The people you meet, right? And I’ve seen how much I loved myself. I -- I’ve seen how much love that is in the world because I’m positive. And I don’t think if I was positive I would never have experienced that.

 

DAVID: If we date we still have to disclose.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yes.

 

DAVID: We have to find a way to do that.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah. I get it out of the way right from the beginning.

 

DAVID: Yeah? What do you do?

 

DOMINIQUE: I get it out of the way. I say "Hey, my name is Dominique. I’ve got ten inches and I’m HIV-positive." [laughs] No, I don’t say all of that.

 

DAVID: I was going to say, are those -- is that all true?

 

DOMINIQUE: No, no. I wish. I wish, I wish.

 

DAVID: But it’s a good line.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah. No, so I’ll say hello ...

 

DAVID: Got my attention.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah. But I disclose. What I’ve learned is when I wait to disclose and I think I’m protecting myself, but I’m really not, because I get feelings for this guy. And everyone’s not at that point where they will be open to date someone that's HIV-positive. And even if they do date someone that’s HIV-positive or open to it, they might not want to date someone that’s HIV-positive and open about their status.

 

DAVID: When you hear someone my age talk about the '80's or what it was like where everybody was dying, what do you think?

 

DOMINIQUE: We’re still dying. It’s just that it’s different. I think a lot of -- I see a lot of my young Black youth dying still to this day. Now it changed. The communities that are dying changed.

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm.

 

DOMINIQUE: And it's not talked about as often, but it’s still around. The AIDS crisis is still around.

 

DAVID: How many friends of you -- of yours have you lost?

 

DOMINIQUE: So many. I’ve lost so many people.

 

DAVID: I’m sorry.

 

DOMINIQUE: [sighs] Yeah. People say, you know, it’s not the ‘80s no more. People are not dying from it. And yes they are. They’re still dying from it. They’re still being affected from it. I know Black men are getting infected, especially the Black youth.

 

DAVID: Mm-hmm.

 

DOMINIQUE: We’re getting infected. And we’re still dying, right? A lot of -- the stigma's ...

 

DAVID: It’s not cured.

 

DOMINIQUE: No, it’s not cured.

 

DAVID: What do you think the future's gonna be?

 

DOMINIQUE: What we make it, right?

 

DAVID: What are you making it?

 

DOMINIQUE: What we make it. So we’re gonna make it. We’re gonna keep on educating. We’re gonna keep on fighting. We’re gonna pray. We’re gonna educate. Keep loving. And hopefully with all that the spread of HIV and AIDS will be done.

 

DAVID: Anything you want to know about me living in the '80's and being where I’m at now? What do you want to know from the old white guy?

 

DOMINIQUE: The old white guy?

 

DAVID: [laughs]

 

DOMINIQUE: How are you making it?

 

DAVID: I just do the next right thing the next day. I take my pills. I show up at the doctor. And I try to be useful. It's very important to me what we're doing here, because we can’t have gone through all this for nothing. We can’t forget about it. That’s why I wondered, like, what do young people know? What don’t they know? How do we pass this on? How do we make this worthwhile? And I remember being told early on by one of my best friends, because the guy I loved who died wanted to look the other way all the time. He wanted to go to a different doctor who’d say something different than what he wanted to hear. And I go back to what my original doctor said was just be informed. And my best, best friend said, "If that means that the doctor wants to see you every other day, I want you to show up every other day." And not every day is a medical problem for me. I’ve been spared. I have not landed in the hospital. I did not lose every friend in the world. But I’m still living with this every day, and it just becomes – it doesn’t become you, but it becomes a fact about you and you need to just deal with it. So I show up. That's probably it. I just show up every day. And that’ll make this worth it. Somehow, my bunch of guys led to the next bunch of guys led to you, and you will lead to them. And hopefully we’ll keep talking about it.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah.

 

DAVID: I hope so.

 

DOMINIQUE: I want to say thank you.

 

DAVID: Thank you.

 

DOMINIQUE: Thank you. Don’t stop.

 

DAVID: It means a lot.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah, don’t stop doing what you’re doing.

 

DAVID: You neither.

 

DOMINIQUE: Do not stop.

 

DAVID: Keep going on, I mean, I love that you're talking to people.

 

DOMINIQUE: Yeah. And I love that you're talking to people still, right?

 

DAVID: Thank you, my dear.

 

DOMINIQUE: All right. Hug time.

 

DAVID: Oh, you sweet man.

 

TOBIN: That was David Gebel with Dominique Crisden.

 

KATHY: All right, that’s our show. Let’s do some credits.

 

TOBIN: This episode was produced by Matt Collette, edited by Jenny Lawton, and sound designed by Jeremy Bloom. Our executive producer is Paula Szuchman.

 

KATHY: Special thanks to Krishna Stone at Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

 

TOBIN: I’m Tobin Low.

 

KATHY: I’m Kathy Tu.

 

TOBIN: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.

 

JAD: You can subscribe to Nancy on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Their next episode comes out soon. I'm Jad Abumrad. Radiolab will also be back soon. Thank you for listening.

 

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