Paul Tiesse – HIV/AIDS

“I probably would be dead.”

A lot of people that had HIV came back to Spokane, because they grew up here, to die. A lot of people [in Spokane with HIV/AIDS] were strangers, because they left Spokane when they were 18 or whatever—went to Seattle or Portland or California. Then came back here. My long-term friends with HIV are still alive. All of them aren’t in very good shape, but they’re still alive.

I did have one friend that I went to grade school with [who died from AIDS]. He went to Mater Cleri, which is a seminary school where Northwest Christian is now, and I went to Prep. We kind of lost contact, but we stayed in a little bit of contact. He was a chef down at a club on Stevens. He went on to become a really popular catering chef in California for the movie stars. He ended up getting HIV and died. His family completely disowned him. In fact, his father just died. I noticed they didn’t have his son’s name in the paper as predeceased, which I thought was weird. I thought that his sister—who I think had a good relationship with him—would’ve put it in. It wasn’t in there. He was probably the only one that I know from grade school that interacted and died [from HIV/AIDS]. I didn’t have any contact with him really when he was in California. He probably had a whole different world compared to me.

Maybe this is a cop-out, but I always say, if I didn’t live that way [i.e., not going to gay bars], I probably would be dead now with HIV/AIDS. Just because, back then, I’m sure just because of my experimentation phase, I probably would’ve been extremely sexually active. And I drank. I didn’t have a drinking problem, but I probably would’ve drunk more. Maybe I’m trying to justify my life, but I still really feel I probably would be dead. I don’t have HIV, but I’m sure I probably would’ve gotten it and be dead if I led the normal lifestyle of that period of time.

I think in terms of HIV, the drag community—and the lesbian community even—were really supportive back then. When a lot of people shunned men with HIV, those communities got together, raised money, and things like that.

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 15 November 2013.