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August 25, 1989 - Image 92

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-08-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I OUTLOOK I

HEBREW NATIONAL BRINGS
NEWYORK YOUR WAY

Living With AIDS

Activist David Green is trying to make
the Jewish community aware of their
responsibility to persons with AIDS.

JAMES D. BESSER

Washington Correspondent

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FRIDAY, AUGUST 25, 1989

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n one hand, the last
thing David Green
wants is a story about
his life, or what's left of it.
Green craves compassion
and understanding, not
notoriety; what he tends to
get, when he doesn't get
outright rejection, is pity and
fear.
To a remarkable extent, he
rejects the notion of being a
victim. Despite his anguish at
the way his own community
has blinded itself to his pain,
Green speaks without bit-
terness or rancor. He has
come to terms with his condi-
tion; he clearly feels uncom-
fortable with the idea of tur-
ning his sickness into a public
issue.
On the other hand, David
Green has become an activist.
In speeches at synagogues
and rabbinical meetings, he
reminds audiences that Jews
have a special obligation to
care for the sick and the dy-
ing. And it doesn't matter
that the objects of this corn-
passion may be people whose
lifestyles some Jews deplore.
David Green has Acquired
Immune Deficiency Syn-
drome (AIDS). His story is a
tale of survival against the
odds. Diagnosed in 1986, he is
among the elite few who have
survived active AIDS for
more than a year or two. More
importantly, his spirit has
survived an affliction that
has become the modern
equivalent of the Black
Death, with all the terrifying
social connotations of that
disease.
"David is no Pollyanna,"
said Rabbi Joseph Levine, the
Jewish chaplain at the Na-
tional Institutes of Health in
Rockville. Levine has worked
with more than 40 AIDS pa-
tients; when he talks about
his experiences, his voice
breaks with emotion. "He has
lived through several stages
of hell. But he's a gentle,
sweet, well-integrated person;
he hasn't gone looking for a
scapegoat for his disease. If
you can picture AIDS as a
manhole that people fall in to,
he fell into it, he climbed out,
and he's going about his life.
Some people fall into it and
don't come out."
David Green's odyssey
began in earnest three years
ago. But even before that,

AIDS had clawed its way in-
to his consciousness.
"I was like most people," he
says now, laughing quietly at
his own naivete. "I didn't
think it applied to me. It was
something that happened to
other people. Although I felt
badly for them, part of the
denial process was to say
`they did something I didn't
do.' It's funny, how the mind
works."
His diagnosis was a long,
agonizing process. "It took a
long time," he says now,
"They had to do major lung
surgery to make the
diagnosis. But I think the doc-
tors always knew. They took

'We're providing
millions of dollars
for Jews in the
Soviet Union who
we've never seen
— but we have a
problem with
people right here
who are suffering
with AIDS.

a long time to tell me; I think
they didn't want to scare me."
When the diagnosis came, it
was a staggering blow. "I was
already a basket case," he
says. "It was difficult for me
to understand; it must have
been doubly painful for my
family, to have this realiza-
tion sink in. And we knew
that everything was ahead of
us."
Green's feelings of isolation
were intensified because he
did not know anybody else
with AIDS. "So it was very
lonely, very scary; I didn't
have anyone else to tell me
what it was like, what would
happen. It was a real journey
— and that was just the begin-
ning."
One of his first reactions
was to ask his doctors the ob-
vious question. "Back then,
silly me, I asked my doctors
how long I had left. Both of
them said no more than two
years. Of course, that didn't
take into account that in
those two years, AZT could
come out, a variety of new
treatments could be
developed. I saw one of those
doctors in Macy's recently,
and boy, did that feel good.
There I was, and he asked me
how I was, and I said 'I'm

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