Proving Positive: Many Who Risk AIDS Now Weigh Carefully Whether to Be Tested
Early Treatment of Infection May Stave Off Disease, But Decision Is Perilous
How to Treat a Time Bomb
By Marilyn Chase, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
(...) One effect of testing can be to put couples in a delicate and sometimes unexpected bind. Such was the experience of Reggie Williams and Tim Isbell of San Francisco. Mr. Williams is a 38-year-old AIDS activist with Black and White Men Together, an interracial support group for gay men. Mr. Isbell, 40, is a minister's son and the director of a church choir. Partners for seven years, they had disparate test results that took them by surprise.
Mr. Williams resisted being tested until crushing fatigue and weight loss drove him to the doctor and a tentative diagnosis of AIDS-related complex (ARC), a precursor of AIDS that itself can be debilitating, even fatal. Still, he recalls, "I was holding out. In my denial and inability to accept what was happening, I took the test to prove my physician wrong. I wanted to wave the paper in his face. That didn't happen. I shut down emotionally."
Still untested, Mr. Isbell just assumed that he too must be infected. A musician with an unreliable income and no insurance, he wanted to apply for coverage. So, protected by California law forbidding insurers to require an AIDS-antibody test, Mr. Isbell enrolled in a medical plan.
Then, in February, wanting to know for sure, he rolled up his sleeve at one of San Francisco's anonymous test sites.
"It took two weeks to get the results," Mr. Isbell recalls. "When they told me I didn't have it, I said 'Oh come on, there must be some mistake.'"
Learning that his companion had tested negative, Mr. Williams admits he was shocked. "I remember feeling almost hurt, and a little angry. I thought, why? Why me? I was silent for 10 seconds and then said, 'Oh, good for you.'. I wanted to be supportive. I don't know if I wanted him to be sick too, but I felt alone. It was a strange experience."
Mr. Isbell, like many others who test negative, greeted his news not with glee but with quiet relief, tinged with what might be called survivor's guilt. Now, having been spared the infection, he affirms, "I plan to (stay strong) and be there when (Reggie) needs me most." Mr. Williams acknowledges that for Mr. Isbell to shoulder the caretaker's role "taxes a relationship." Says Tim Isbell: "We've seen some (couples) break up." (...)
Date: Published: 6/6/89
Source: Wall Street Journal. Copyright Dow Jones & Co. Inc.
Tim Isbell, Reggie's partner for many years, later became infected, too, and died from AIDS in San Francisco on September, 12, 1998.
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