I have realised that I have to go back and forth between what happened years ago, and what happens now.
Tomorrow I will speak for a group of HIV positive people at the Posithiva Gruppen/The Posithive Group in Stockholm, and tell them about my work in Sweden and in San Francisco, between 1986 – 2018.
The first time I spoke for that specific group was in 1992. I had been back and forth to San Francisco, following up interviews from 1987, and I was going to tell them about the people that I had interviewed.
But as I stood there, it struck me that most of the people I had spoken to in San Francisco had since then died, and that the men sitting in front of me… I just froze for a while, and then I almost jumped from the subject, and started talking about the Names Project. I had brought fabric and pen´s with me, and suggested that they should do a Panel for their friends that had passed away, and they immediately started. Now that I think about it, they may have frozen too.
They called it Lovers and Friends, Sweden.
The two men holding the Panels were Tommy and Calle, a couple. Very nice people, a great support.
Tommy, who stands alone, became very depressed at times, and he was saved from several suicide attempts. He became blind, and died in hospital, after a sudden desperate burst of hope, because of DNCB. (The chemical used in the development of colour photographs, that for a while was thought to stop HIV if you painted it on your body. A Swedish man with HIV, living in San Francisco, came to Sweden to promote it, and he was very convincing, but it did not work, and he passed away.)
Calle was struck with a number of diseases; expressive aphasia, brain damage and paralysis on one side. He only saw two colours, green and red, and the nurse that took care of him, said that he was lonely in his brain. He died about a year after Tommy.
Calle had specific wishes for his coffin. He wanted to rest on silk sheets, he wanted to be dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, and he wanted to bring a bottle of whisky, in the coffin.
At this time, in these circles, with so many funerals, I think especially the caretaker Krister Pettersson, that I have mentioned before, let go of a lot of rules, so on this occasion, since the bottle could not go in to the Crematorium, Krister and the nurse poured whisky all around Calle in the coffin.
When we had made the Panels, they were sent Express, Door-to Door, to Washington, DC, and one of the volunteers found them, so they were part of the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Tomorrow I will speak for a group of HIV positive people, I don´t know if there are any long time survivors among them, but after all those years, the situation is quite different from when I stood there, not knowing what to do. I will tell them this story.