Dan Coulston – Mentoring and Support

“People started to come together.”

I think [the 1980s] was a time where people started to come together. I think that the lesbian community was even more closeted than gay men at that time. But [lesbians] were also the first ones there, the first responders when there was a crisis or need. I think in some ways [HIV/AIDS] gave the gay community a commonality, more than just sharing sexual orientation. It gave them a cause.

I was proud of the community, that at least there was a group of physicians who looked at the patient as a patient, and not their homosexuality or [as] the potential danger to themselves. I think we all go through that in this day and age. If you’re in medicine, you got to worry a little bit about occupational exposure disease. There were enough doctors there that we could handle things. It didn’t mean there weren’t difficult times, but there were enough people.

I think the community was, for that time, reasonably open, but still fearful of what was happening. Certainly, family and friends were the mainstay [for patient support]. There were some patients whose families ostracized them too; it was difficult for them. But, I think the community as a whole, with the gay community primarily coming together to act as a mutual support—sometimes mutual destruction, but usually mutual support—to try to take care of people. That was good to see. It was good to see that things were happening then, because there wasn’t much else to offer patients.

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I know [my office] lost patients over the years because I take care of HIV patients. Some people feel that I then condone [homosexual] activity; therefore it’s against nature and they don’t want to be part of [my practice]. And two, I think there’s the fear. Some patients would have fear of picking up something in my office, such as HIV. I would say the majority of patients, however, applauded my efforts. A lot of my patients are patients who were in some serious trouble at some point, whether the intensive care unit, the trauma, whatever. They had some life crisis. They got [sent] to me. They were in trouble at one point and I was there. So, they respected me being there for anybody else.

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 10 July 2013.