Charlie, age 58 / Auckland, New Zealand


People were just dying in ’83 and ’84. All my friends were dying around me, and then a very good friend of mine was diagnosed with it in ’84. And he moved home to his place in Taroma. Some people shunned him, but I never did.

When I was told that it was HIV, I closed off. I, um, broke down. I locked myself up in the house and just didn’t come out for about a week or two. I never told anybody. I just kept it to myself, because in those days, in New Zealand, once they found out you had HIV, it was “AIDS.” They automatically thought you had AIDS. Nobody knew.

With Maoris, if you get HIV or AIDS and you die, you’re not buried inside the cemetery. We have our own cemeteries. You’re not taken in with all the other people; you’re buried outside the gates, so that when you decay you don’t contaminate the earth. It’s stopped now, because everybody knows what HIV and AIDS is like. But in those days, you were buried outside, and you were shunned.