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Not for Sale

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day. The waiting room was now “standing room only,” and we were thinking of holding the clinic more than one day a week. I finished each session exhausted. Hope, however, was beginning to return. The virus that caused the disease had been isolated. A vaccine was being considered, and the first drugs that we hoped would kill the virus were being tested. I’d begun to tell patients in the early stages of the disease that there might be a treatment or possibly a cure in the near future.

Annie came to the office for me to sign a form. She had just been discharged from the hospital after treatment for her fourth episode of pneumonia. The form she needed to have me sign was necessary in order to place her child in foster care.

“Can you hold on for a few more months? I think we may have a treatment.”

“I don’t think so. I’ve lost all my strength. I can’t keep anything down.”

She looked at me directly. Her face was gaunt, and she was beginning to lose weight. She neither smiled nor cried but stated calmly, “I know I won’t be alive in two months.” Other patients in the waiting room heard her say this, and suddenly everyone was watching her. She gave me one more look that said simultaneously “Thanks” and “its okay if you can’t do anything for me anymore.” She folded her form, tucked it in her purse, and left. I never saw her again.

I had seen Lee off and on for two years. Originally, he was one of the “worried well.” He had a lover with Kaposi’s sarcoma and he would come anxiously with every new bump or freckle. Now he had two weeks of fever and sore throat. His examination showed thrush. He took the news quietly. Then he told me he would take any risk necessary to have a chance to be spared the agony he had seen his lover go through. Although he was white and American, something about Lee reminded me of Régis. He dressed meticulously, as Régis did, and he spoke with a natural eloquence. I excused myself to find Margaret.

She had spoken with someone at the National Institutes of

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