In the spring of 1985, Craig Washington started to feel constant nausea. He had no appetite and he was battling a cold that wouldn’t go away. Before long, he was experiencing night sweats, swollen lymph nodes and thrush, all classic symptoms of the virus that causes AIDS.
He was 25 and certain his life was about to change.
Four years earlier on June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had marked the beginning of America’s long AIDS epidemic, highlighting five cases of pneumocystis pneumonia or PCP in five young homosexuals, all white.
Craig was black. And now he was terrified.He had reason to be. At the time, nearly 90 percent of AIDS sufferers died within two years of diagnosis; the average time of survival was 14 months after the first bout of pneumocystis — a form of pneumonia.
Up until that moment, nothing had scared Craig more than coming out to his family, especially his father.
Leon Washington, a bus driver, was a loving father, but he was also a very traditional, patriarchal and domineering figure. He would smack Craig’s hand if he felt his posture mimicked a girl’s.
That’s how girls hold their hand, he’d tell him.
To read the rest of Craig Washington’s story, Part II of a five-part This Life series titled The Silent Epidemic: Black Gay Men & HIV, click below:
The Silent Epidemic: In this series
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