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 moment, 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 Ek and Calle Andersson, a couple. Very nice people, and a great support. (The less organized Panel is mine, and it includes both Swedish and American names. )
Tommy, who stands alone, became very depressed at times, and he was saved from several suicide attempts. He was really very depressed, also losing his sight so he could not paint, but suddenly he had a desperate burst of hope, because of DNCB; A chemical used in the development of color photographs, that for a while was thought to stop HIV if you painted it on your body. A Swedish man with HIV, Mats Ernmark, living in San Francisco, came to Sweden to promote it, and he was very convincing.
The idea was that this easy way to cure HIV had been silenced by the big Pharmaceutical companies, because it was so cheap and they would lose money.
I think hope made it work for a while, but in the end both Mats and Tommy passed away, both in 1994.
Calle was later struck with a number of diseases; expressive aphasia, brain damage and paralysis on one side. He only saw two colors, 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, in 1995.
Something extra about Calle. He wanted to bring a bottle of whisky with him in the coffin, but as he was to be cremated it did not work. However, the undertaker that I have mentioned in another piece, was now totally relieved of all ”it is not possible”, and poured out whisky in the coffin.
But back to the Panel making:
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, in 1992.
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.