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How one Mom handles HIV/AIDS in the family.

God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers.
~Jewish Proverb

My mother raised six children, topping off this great achievement with yours truly. Yes, I’m the youngest, which explains a lot, but not all. To understand the rest, you’d have to know the woman. Or, perhaps, simply be a mother yourself.

Mom was there for her kids during the years my father spent in far flung corners of the world flying B-52’s as a pilot in the Air Force for more than thirty years. Mom had to be all things: nurturer, disciplinarian, confessor, judge and jury. She was the parental constant, and she performed it all admirably (and stylishly, if you ask me).

Once I was old enough to safely get home from school on my own, Mom went back to school herself. To everyone’s surprise but hers, she got a Master’s Degree — even spending a semester at Oxford — before starting a prestigious career as head of Louisiana State University’s library. She has since retired but could easily keep a smirk on her face for the rest of her life for all of those poor fools who, like me, thought her talents stretched as far as PTA meetings but not much further.

In 1985, she approached the news of my HIV status with the same pragmatic resolve as her career. She studied up, listened when I needed to talk about it, and traveled to Los Angeles to join me for a weekend educational retreat for people with HIV/AIDS and their allies. I’ll never forget her attending a breakout session on safer sex and then catching up with me to say, “Mark, explain rimming.”

Mother - CopyHer life has been the kind of roller coaster you might expect for a woman who has raised six kids, seen a few wars, and watched two gay sons negotiate the AIDS epidemic.

There are questions I have always wanted to ask Mom about finding out about my HIV status during the darkest years of the pandemic, and how it felt for her to go through a family AIDS tragedy. In my video interview with her (above) from last year, she never flinches at the questions.

This Mother’s Day, I hope you are fortunate to have a supportive mother to call or remember fondly. Thank God, mine is not unique in her capacity to empathize or love unconditionally.



Jonny Wood - CopyExactly 21 years ago today, my friend Jonny Wood (right) tested HIV positive. Like many of us, he has channeled his gratitude for his good health by giving back to his community, and next weekend Jonny will participate in the grueling AIDS Ride to raise funds for the Emory Vaccine Center. You know I never hit you up for donations, but if you can afford even a modest contribution, his official web page for his AIDS Ride makes it really easy and secure to donate. No donation is too small, my friends. Isn’t it amazing that so many of us who lived through the dawn of this epidemic are not only still walking and talking, but riding their bikes for hundreds of miles in hopes of finding an effective vaccine? You go, Jonny.

Normal HeartLarry Kramer‘s searing indictment of society’s response to AIDS in its early years, The Normal Heart, is back on Broadway and just racked up five Tony Award nominations, including for Ellen Barkin (right). “Powerful” hardly describes this primal scream of a play, and its fitting that this 1985 masterpiece has been remounted as we commemorate 30 years of the epidemic and as our community commitment to AIDS continues to be diluted by time and treatment advances.

As always, my friends, please be well.




  1. John Petersen May 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    How blessed you are! My partner/husband was diagnosed with AIDS in 2004. My three previous relationships have all died from the disease. I continue to test HIV-. My parents accepted their gay son until we got legally married here in California. Then it went downhill. I am an actor and my parents live in the “Center of Bigotry and Intolerance” also known as Arizona. My father sat in my Kitchen, looked at me and said YOU ARE NOT EVEN CATHOLIC ANYMORE! WOW! Where did that come from. He and my mom are racist Glenn Beck/Fox News followers. For two years it was nothing but THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DOES NOT APPROVE OF CATHOLIC MARRIAGE…so glad we didn’t get married in a Catholic Church. Then my day gig closed and I got put on Unemployment. Fox News tells its viewers PEOPLE ON UNEMPLOYMENT ARE LAZY. Well, I forwarded my father an email about how advertisers were abandoning Glenn Beck. His response was don’t send me this GARBAGE. Well, my response was a list of things THEY DO that the Catholic Church wouldn’t approve of including mom’s lesbian affair, my sister’s three divorces while living in sin with Man #4 and putting her daughter on Birth Control at age 14.
    Their response CONTACT US AGAIN AND WE WILL TAKE OUT A RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST YOU! PERIOD! ….The perfect Catholic Family! I forgive them their ignorance. I wish you continued health and happiness.

  2. Sean Strub May 6, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I’m not sure which of them is luckier to have the other, but I am sure this is a beautiful relationship and I feel fortunate that Mark made this video to share it with us all.

    Happy Mother’s Day, Mrs. King. And thank you, Mark.

  3. Sam May 7, 2011 at 11:30 am

    What a beautiful message to hear so close to Mother’s Day. I miss my mother every day of my life. I am grateful that we reconciled some of our problems before she passed away in 2003 of pancreatic cancer. She had given birth to 11 children and had lived with an abusive husband. She was fortunate to have a second husband who cherished her and gave her 20 years of happiness. Listening to your mother made me feel so very good. My mother wasn’t articulate, but she certainly loved her children, and suffered and worried about them all the time. This is what I try to remember now when I think of her, and not the times we had misunderstandings. Thank you Mark for sharing such a beautiful message: you are indeed blessed to have such a loving mother. May God bless her and you and all the loving mothers on Mother’s Day. Peace.

  4. Sam May 7, 2011 at 11:34 am

    P.S. And now I’m crying, dude. Thanks a lot! Seriously, though. Thanks Mark. Maybe I needed to cry. Peace

  5. Butch McKay May 12, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Thanks for sharing your Mom with us. She reminds me of my own mother who I lost on Christmas Eve many years ago. Having worked in HIV for over 23 years I have come to know many mothers and I wish they all could have responded as your Mother did to your situation. Sadly many did not. For those who did, they often became the mother not only to their child but also to those who were abandoned by their own mothers. God Bless you Mark an your wonderful family.

  6. Jonathan May 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Maybe you could bring your mom on the POZ Cruise in November and she could be shared with others who are lacking supportive moms in their lives? Also, “2 of each?” are there any lesbian nieces, yet? Hugzzz

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