HIV Diary: Here For a While

7.17.2005

By Robert Levithan

I noticed the other day that I expect to still be alive in 10 years. Officially, that has been my position for a while, but now I actually believe it!

How do I know? I got a dog. Her name is Sophie and she is a 3-year-old yellow Lab, a de-commissioned seeing eye dog (just 'too sociable,' as my boyfriend says, to be a working guidedog). I had a yellow Lab, Knick, who died four years ago at the age of 12. When he was young, I was sure I'd go before him. He was provided for financially in my will, and there was also a carefully chosen list of candidates to get custody upon my death. My lawyer, a dear friend, broke legal etiquette by placing himself up a notch or two in the hierarchy while doing a draft revision of that now-outdated will and testament.

Of course, I may die before Sophie, but it is easier to see myself alive and well in 10 or 15 years. That was certainly not the case in 1991. The game has changed. A friend adopted an AIDS baby who is now 13. When my friend and his partner petitioned the court for parental rights a decade or so ago, their attorney argued that the child's life expectancy was eight years and that that alone should overcome any reluctance on the part of the judge to place him with gay parents. Their son is now a healthy adolescent, and, thankfully, few AIDS babies are born today. We are in gloriously uncharted territory. Many, like that 3-year-old and myself, were not supposed to be here.

In fact, a cure or a nontoxic anti-viral regimen now seems easier to envision than today's medical outlook seemed back when Knick entered my life. Some of us are lucky enough to have the challenge of outliving ourselves and adapting to the changing circumstances.

It looks like Sophie and I will have many years together. We certainly have a til-death-do-us-part relationship. And she'll be in my will'just in case I get hit by a bus.

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