Abilene couple living with HIV for nearly 20 years

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ABILENE, Texas (KRBC)- The conversation about HIV and AIDS has quieted since its initial world-wide scare in the 1980s. And while Big Country AIDS Resources (BCAR) said this disease is more treatable, statistics show AIDS is still considered an epidemic.

Abilene couple Robert Ray and James Harmon married in the state of Washington in 2014, but the two have been together for nearly two decades. When they met, they realized they have a lot in common, including the fact that they are both HIV positive.

“They did all sorts of tests on me, you know,” said Ray. “And they, [the doctor] comes into the room and he says, ‘You have HIV. You may as well go home and die.'”

Both have faced major medical complications over the years. Robert has suffered two major heart attacks and nearly died from a case of sepsis. James was diagnosed with Shingles in his mid 30s. With the immunodeficiency, the two typically suffer more from ailments than those without the disease.

“There’s always the chance that we’re going to catch something that other people could just fight off,’ said Harmon.

Overall, Harmon and Ray conclude their current medication regimens keep the disease manageable, but this has not always been the case. James Wagstaff of Big Country AIDS Resources said back in the 1990s, doctors were prescribing HIV and AIDS patients aggressive medications at high dosages.

“There were people taking just horrendous amounts of pills that is simplified to one pill a day,” said Wagstaff.

Harmon said he is his in mid-50s, but his body is that of a man in his mid-70s. He blames the copious amounts of medications he has taken over the years, including his prescription of azidothymidine, better known as AZT.

Ray and Harmon have lost numerous friends over the years to AIDS and HIV complications, including James’ first partner, who was diagnosed with a simple upper respiratory tract infection before his demise.

“I packed him in the car, called the doctor and said ‘I’m coming right now,'” said Harmon. “[We] got to his office. We walked in, the nurse literally jumped over the counter and so ‘Oh my god. Take him to the hospital now. He’s turning blue.’ He died five weeks later.'”

Wagstaff said in order to prevent this disease from spreading and keep younger people informed about safe sex, sex education in Texas should be a priority.

“People are keeping their heads buried in the sand on this issue,” said Wagstaff. “They’re not educating themselves, and they’re making poor decisions based on fear.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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