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H.B. Pattskyn Blog Post

The talented and amazing H.B. Pattskyn has stopped by to talk for a bit this morning.  Come by and say hi and check out her powerful book Hanging by the Moment, which we loved as you can tell by our review here.

Hanging by the Moment is a very special book to me, for a lot of reasons. One is that my family is Russian; my great grandparents immigrated at the turn of the last century to escape Communist rule.

While I never knew them, I was raised by my grandmother, who carried a lot of her parents’ values with her and there’s a lot of her in Pasha’s father, Ivan. She was sometimes difficult—sometimes even awful—but at the end of the day, I knew she loved me, and I needed her as much as she needed me.

My grandmother (also named Helen, by the way) passed ten years ago, so she never got to see what I wrote (ten years ago, I never would have imagined I’d write any kind of romance, but that’s a story for another day). I’m not quite sure what she’d have made of my books. She was always supportive, but she really didn’t quite understand homosexuality—or anything else that didn’t fit into her idea of what life was supposed to look like. I know she’d cringe if she could see me driving into downtown Detroit two days a week to volunteer a few hours with AIDS Partnership Michigan—not because of the AIDS part, but because of the driving into downtown Detroit part. She’d want to know why I couldn’t find somewhere that wasn’t in a safer neighborhood. (The APM office is actually in a perfectly fine neighborhood; now the house next to me in suburbia? That got broken into last year. Go figure, huh?)

I started volunteer with APM because of the research I did for Hanging by the Moment, because some of the things I found online when I Googled the question “Would you date someone with HIV?” broke my heart. I knew that there some fundamentalist religious groups who had strong opinions, but I was dumbfounded when I read some of the things that perfectly ordinary people still believed about HIV and AIDS. It’s not malice, it’s misinformation, it’s lack of understanding and that breeds fear.

I’m probably preaching to the choir, but for the record, you can’t get HIV though kissing or hugging or even sharing a glass of soda. HIV is transmitted through blood/needle sharing, unprotected sexual encounters, and breast milk. It is 100% preventable. It’s not curable—yet—but it is treatable. However the treatment is no walk in the park. Options are better than they’ve ever been, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy—and the hardest part for a lot of people is the stigma attached to having HIV. One of the hardest questions I had to ask myself as I was writing Daniel and Pasha’s story was would I date someone who had HIV? After some major soul searching, I realized that yes, I would. (You know, if I weren’t happily married and all.) I would be okay with it if my daughter brought home a boy (or girl) who was positive. I’m human, I’d do the ten second freak-out in behind a closed door somewhere, and then it would be okay.

This past week, we celebrated World AIDS Day in Detroit. I attended/volunteered at a breakfast on Friday morning where the message was simple. We have a new goal: Zero.

Zero new cases of HIV.

Zero children born with HIV.

Zero deaths from AIDS related illness.

Zero stigma.

That last one may actually be the hardest to achieve, but I believe that zero is possible in our lifetime.


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