“I was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS in 1997 when I passed out at work. Everybody found out that I was gay and had AIDS. I was deathly sick for two and a half years. If not for the diagnoses, I would have never come out of the closet.”
“Yes, even today. My father left my mother for a man in the early '70s, which destroyed both my mother and my family, and I thought I would never come out of the closet after that. A lot of people got married back in those days even if they were gay, because society told them that they had to.
My father died of AIDS in 1985. Back in the '80s and '90s, I knew people who died three months after they were diagnosed — they didn’t even know what hit them. If I had gotten sick six months earlier, I wouldn’t be here today because the effective treatment only came out a couple of months before my diagnosis. I lost over a hundred of my friends to AIDS. Many of them turned into skeletons and died alone in hospices. Their families never visited them.
I’ve been very lucky: my family and friends have been supportive beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve reconnected with childhood friends and long-lost relatives. When I got sick, my mother moved in to take care of me. She is passed away now, but I’m glad that in the last nine years of her life she got to know her gay son. She was my best friend, and I would have hated for her not to get to know the real me.”
Portraits of Boston is a project of independent photographer Ivan Velinov. He is regularly sharing some of his favorite portraits with WBUR. Visit his website to see the hundreds of portraits he has taken on the streets of Boston.