On the day

Back on 11 September 2001 this was my post.

11 Sep 2001

Thoughts of a survivor: Guest article by Ian Smith, the Dowager Empress of Hong Kong

It is difficult to give advice to any one regarding HIV/AIDS. However here are a few thoughts from a long-term survivor.

Do not panic. This is easy to say, but the best thing you can do, is ignore the virus as much as possible, within reason. If you are on medication, never miss a dose. Always have safe sex to avoid passing the virus to someone else, and keep alcohol and other recreational drugs down. By this I do not mean give everything up, just try cutting down. Think, “Do I really need that E tonight?” If you do, take only half, or less. This has the advantage of saving money. It also has the advantage of not damaging your immune system as much.

Explore alternatives. Smart little dinner parties work out a lot cheaper than a night out on the bars, and have the advantage that you can still hear the next morning.

If you can’t cook, learn; I never eat fast food–eating at home is cheaper and more nutritious than fat-laden Maccas etc.

Do not give up working unless you are forced to do so. Possibly the worst thing you can do is go on the Disability Pension, and then sit around in poverty, brooding about your situation. This causes stress, and all the indications are that stress hastens the progress of the disease. Never even think, “I have AIDS!” You do not!! You are HIV+.

Coming out as positive is as hard as your original coming out. You will find some people drop you, and others are wonderfully supportive. Choose who you come out to with care; you do not want the news to be all over the scene within five minutes.

Personally, I am totally out. If I meet a new person, and the conversation looks like leading past the bar or club, I disclose. It is easier than getting into bed and saying “by the way, I am positive”, then watching them run. Give them the choice of backing out gracefully in the venue; the damage to your self-esteem is far less.

Find other HIV people. It is easy to do, about half of my friends are positive, the rest negative; all are friends.

Never “Out” someone as positive. They might not be as open about their status as you are. Remember, they have trusted you with the knowledge of their status. Do not spread that knowledge around.

Always try to set long-term goals, and meet them. My present long-term goal is to be at Gallipoli for Anzac Day, 2015. My doctor, who thinks I am crazy, says he will be there with me. Start with targets a year or so away and increase the length of time.

On the Yahoo group pozguysau

Ian passed away last December.

It was in the dead of night that we heard about New York. In my case I had the bedside radio on and couldn’t believe what I was hearing, so I got up and turned on the TV.

Next day:

12 Sep 2001

Dies irae

Horrible. What more can I say?

When I was seventeen the following poem (I print here the first and last stanzas only) was one we did; ever since it has recurred to me when the world has displayed yet another atrocity:


W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleagured by the same
Negation and despair
Show an affirming flame.

13 Sep 2001

Local but global…Australia and asylum seekers

In the background as I write the TV here in Sydney is still devoted to full coverage via CNN etc of the horrendous events of a few days back; rightly so. Perhaps later I will dare to say something…

Not much better to say than this again:


Showing an affirming flame, in my book, includes reaching out to ALL people of peace. This includes people who ask questions and say things like this:

Muslim countries have learned the hard way that alienation from society comes from inequality and disadvantage, and it is that which sets people off on the road to violence. I believe religion to be important, but religion was never intended as an antidote to all social ills, nor has the interpretation and practice of religion always served the public good.

A decade on from September 11, the growing influence of religion on our public space and over our government can be seen as an ongoing legacy of the terrorist attacks.

The understanding of September 11 as a religious phenomenon and the subsequent increasing role of religion in Australian society will not protect us from another September 11; but it can potentially weaken our commitment to human diversity.

If we want religion to have a greater presence in our society, we have to ask: do we want a religion that preaches exclusion, division and domination in the service of outdated notions of what a good society should be or do we want a religion that supports a society in which everyone is equally valued and has a place?

Thanks, Joumanah El Matrah, executive director of the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights. You are a bearer of an affirming flame and I welcome it and you and pass it on.

And do read Denis Wright’s The South Tower chocolate shop, 12 September 2001.

… I thought of the smiling, shark-fearing, dark-haired girl behind the counter, and could imagine her turning towards the building as it came grinding downwards, and not being able to comprehend. Who could, at that moment?
None of us could. I could recall no country in ‘peace’ time having so many of its citizens and others from around the world wiped out in such a ruthlessly calculated fashion, within two hours and with hell yet to come for so many.
I knew the world would never be the same again. It may have been 12 September 2001 here in Eastern Australia, but 9/11 was the date, and the calamity that would be etched in history in all our lifetimes. It would also have fearful consequences far away from American soil.