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D.C. Gay Group Battles 'AIDS Fatigue'

'We All Have AIDS'

Shawn Henderson, 32, leads D.C. Young Poz Socials, an HIV support group for gay men, who account for a large proportion of new HIV diagnoses.
Shawn Henderson, 32, leads D.C. Young Poz Socials, an HIV support group for gay men, who account for a large proportion of new HIV diagnoses. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

The more they hang out, Henderson believes, the better Josh will get to know and trust him. The closer, maybe, Josh will get to other members of D.C. Poz.

So at the annual street festival for Capital Pride weekend, Henderson waits for Josh at the corner of Fourth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. He's wearing a T-shirt that reads "WE ALL HAVE AIDS," which is earning him all kinds of stares, and not one of them, he feels, is particularly warm. Especially from the guy standing nearby in a pair of worn jeans and a T-shirt emblazoned with the face of Charlize Theron.

"They're staring at me like, 'Why is he wearing that? Why is he ruining the fun for everybody? Why is he raining on our parade?' " Henderson says.

He laments that the day before, at the Pride parade through the Dupont and Logan Circle neighborhoods, there was barely a mention of the 25th anniversary of AIDS. All he saw, he says, was the Whitman-Walker Clinic float. There's a joke among D.C. Poz members that next year the group should have its own float in front of Whitman-Walker's. Theirs would have a poster that would read, "If you slept with anyone on this float, see the next float." He chuckles, and glares back at Mr. Theron T-shirt.

An hour goes by. Still no Josh.

"All I can really do is be there for him, to be a friend," Henderson says. "I know how hard it is to think you are alone, to worry about disclosing your status to someone else."

But Josh never shows.

That night, Josh is signed on to Manhunt.

"I was down because the fact I am poz," he writes, explaining why he missed the festival. "I have always gone to Pride and enjoyed it, but this year was different. I see lots of cute guys, but I know they are neg, so I get depressed."

It's 1:25 a.m.


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