The only experience I remember of engaging with, or even thinking about HIV in my daily life was when I was 16 as part of training for a volunteer program in Darlinghurst where us volunteers (students from my school who had signed up) would interact with street people at Rough Edges cafe. A lovely gay man living with HIV came to our school and spoke to us about his life in a classroom one evening after school had ended. I’d say what he taught us about HIV made up near 100% of my knowledge of it at that point in my life. Other people had come to talk to us in a similar manner over several weeks who had stories of their lives as drug addicts, sex workers, and things like that. I don’t remember much about them compared to this man, even though I have forgotten most of what he told us too. The most pressing thing that I still remember from meeting this guy was that he thought the person he had contracted it from had given it to him on purpose, as a punishment for his sexuality. I knew I was gay too at this point but wasn’t nearly comfortable with that yet, and felt especially connected to him and his story because of that. I was more scared of the hate crime in general than any fear of ever contracting HIV myself. Which was especially confronting as a teenager trying to understand their sexuality, which was hard enough. I remember that talking to him made a big impact on me and that I talked/thought about him for days. I even, mid-writing this, found a ‘note’ in my old icloud archive that was a draft recounting of the evening to someone. I would guess it was to my close friend, also a lesbian, and the only person who knew I was gay at this point. Apparently the man’s name was [name].

– Tcharne