Long-term AIDS survivor says he wanted to live

When diagnosed 37 years ago with HIV at the age of 21, Kevin Delancy, 57, of Grand Bahama, said he “wanted to live”.

“I went to school in the states and when I came home, I was not feeling well. I was having a lot of bowel movements, sweating in the night, very uncomfortable. Then, I started to get fevers and chills,” Delancy explained in an interview with The Nassau Guardian on Wednesday.

He said he experienced frequent seizures and thought his symptoms were because of that. 

“I was in the hospital in Freeport, then I went to Nassau, and a very close friend of mine encouraged me to see Dr. [Herbert] Orlander,” he said.

“When I went, there was another doctor who was doing his internship, right there in Princess Margaret Hospital’s yard, and I think that’s when I found out. But for some reason, the seriousness of it didn’t hit me at that time. I ignored it and I was very upset.”

Delancy admitted that he “lived a bisexual lifestyle” and thought “being careless” led to his diagnosis. However, he later discovered to his dismay that it was through a blood transfusion from a surgery he underwent one year prior that he contracted the virus.

“I went back to Freeport, and I got worse, but I kept [my diagnosis] a secret from everyone because I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on with me. But I messed around and told one person,” he said.

He added that he is “still traumatized” from the way he was treated by loved ones.

“I remember persons didn’t want to deal with me. I remember, even as far as going to church, it was a big issue,” he said.

“When I look back, I can’t blame everyone because I guess they panicked because they really didn’t know what the disease was all about during that time. My mom tried her very best.

“Then, I remember a time when they tried to send me to All Saints Camp but, in my mind, I was not going no place to die; I wanted to live.”

He recalled moments of homelessness after relocating to the United States.

“My skin began to break out with sores and stuff, so I went into the hospital in Freeport, and I was there for a while. Then, I went into the hospital in Nassau, and I just ran away,” he explained.

“I disconnected everything and I just ran away, and jumped on a flight, and I ran to the United States … I just made the choice that I was going to survive.

“There was a time I slept on the streets, because during that time, people might have loved you, but they didn’t want you around them. And there were many hungry nights.”

However, it was in 1995, at the age of 30, when the unthinkable happened – Delancy had been diagnosed with full-blown AIDS.

“Just before Easter of 1995, I woke up and when I stood up, it’s like the room was spinning,” he explained.

“When I tried to walk, I was getting shocked with a funny sensation, then I started coughing. So, I lied back down and, for the rest of that day, I wasn’t feeling good.

“I tried to get back up again, but the cough got more severe. It was like I couldn’t even breathe anymore. So, I called my mom and I told her what I was experiencing and she told me to try to hurry to the emergency room. 

“So, I told my friend that I thought I was going to die. He didn’t believe me at first, but I finally convinced him to take me. And when I got there, I saw when the doctor looked at me and then at my finger, and pressed my finger.

“Then, he put something on my finger to increase my oxygen levels. Then, he shook his head and looked at the group of other doctors who were around me. Then, they said they have to run some tests. 

“So, they did all this blood work and came back and told me I have PCP (pneumocystis pneumonia) pneumonia, and that was the last thing I remember.

“I probably woke up like two or three weeks later.”

Delancy noted that his family flew over to say their last goodbyes and that his doctor told him that he was going to die as his lungs had collapsed.

“I said to the doctor, ‘Who are you supposed to be? You’re not God.’”

He recalled how his family started to pray, then left, as the doctor had announced that he wasn’t going to make it by that weekend.

He also revealed that his weight dropped to as low as 75 pounds, and that he lost sight in his right eye.

However, Delancy said that it was his trust in God and his determination to live that kept him alive.

“When I left the hospital, I couldn’t walk, so my cousin carried me over his shoulder into my apartment,” he said.

“I remember that day was very rainy and I remember getting the strength to creep over to the window. When I looked out the window, I saw a bird nipping at a tree and a dog sipping water from the side of the street. I thought, if God could keep the wild, He can keep me, too.”

Delancy said he received a call from his mom in 2011 telling him to come back home, and decided that he would.

However, he admitted that the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS was still alive upon his return home, even after 20 years of being gone.

Today, Delancy resides on Grand Bahama and is the founder of HASB – HIV/AIDS Survivors Benefits – a non-profit organization that assists people living with HIV/AIDS and educates the public about both diseases.

“I must commend the government because no matter what administration is in, they have made it a point to keep medication for Bahamians living with HIV/AIDS free,” he said.

As World AIDS Day was recognized yesterday, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Michael Darville, in an interview with The Nassau Guardian in September, declared that “an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic is in sight”, and that The Bahamas’ goal “is to end AIDS by 2030”.

Dr. Nikkiah Forbes, director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme, in the same interview, revealed that The Bahamas experienced a 53 percent decrease in diagnoses within the last decade.

And while Delancy still has moments where he does not feel well, physically, he said he is “doing much better”.

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