I’m Andrew’s anus – that last inch and a half or so of his digestive tract connecting his rectum with the outside world.
Andy had a hella hard time finding competent treatment for me then, and I’m sorry to tell you he still does today.
It was 1987 and finding a job with benefits was Andy’s top priority. Fortunately, his work experience got respect in his home town and in no time he started with a temporary agency. Just when he least expected it, his assignment with a large firm turned into a solid full time job.
Corporate America had just started smarting from the cost of health insurance. Because of this, PPOs (preferred provider organizations) were hot, but the newest kid on the block was the HMO, or health maintenance organization. Supposedly designed to promote prevention and cost savings, HMOs strictly limited where employees could get care and contracted providers at a flat “per insured” rate. Andy attended a meeting where it was announced that his company was going that route.
It had been months since the warts on me were diagnosed.
Anxious, he regularly checked me out while soaping up in the shower.
He was worried that those small, rough-surfaced bumps just inside me might grow or multiply. The wait for insurance seemed to last forever. As the weeks passed,the warts did grow and extended a little bit outside of me, horrifying us/both.
Andy thought more and more about AIDS. Had the local guy who’d shared Hepatitis B with him before his big adventure shared something else? Or… could Patrick have? Before leaving the city, he’d come to realize that Patrick had quite an illustrious past. He also recalled how I sometimes bled a little after Patrick fucked me.
His doctor had recommended against an AIDS test, but Andy finally decided he just had to know. When the health department nurse told him the results were positive, Andy wasn’t surprised. He was referred to the single fledgling support agency in town where services were pretty much limited to hospital visitation and support group meetings which he began to attend.
Andy’s HMO coverage finally kicked in and his first appointment was a nightmare.
When he told the new doctor about his Hepatitis B, the doc darted out of the exam room like his ass was on fire and grabbed the thermometer that his nurse had used to check Andy’s temperature. “Here,” he said as he stuffed it in Andy’s shirt pocket. “We’ll just let you keep that.”
The phrase universal precautions wasn’t yet common, but even I knew something was very wrong – and so did Andy.
Still, he was desperate to have me treated. When he mentioned the warts, the doctor said, “No problem -we can handle that here and now.” He had Andy lay face down on an exam table, numbed me with injections, and while the nurse held Andy’s cheeks apart the doc came at me with some electrical device.
“You don’t have any internal warts, do you?” he asked as the odor of burnt flesh and ozone wafted forward.
Traumatized, and with his own ass now definitely on fire, Andy muttered “I don’t know” but wondered “isn’t it his job to know that?”
The quack sent Andy home with a prescription for Lortab and a wad of gauze in his briefs. I hurt and bled a little for a day or two but slowly began to feel better. When enough time had passed to make it seem less scary, Andy gently probed me to check things out. His heart sunk when he realized the quack had done a half-assed job - I still had warts inside of me.
After participating in the support group for a couple of months, the social worker who ran the AIDS agency asked Andy if he would be willing to serve as a peer facilitator for a new group that was forming. Andy said yes to this first opportunity to help.
Andy still didn’t know where to turn for care. He asked the social worker for the name of an AIDS specialist. “We can’t ethically recommend a doctor,” he said, “but you can call the local academy of medicine for a referral.” Andy did and explained to the person on the phone that he needed someone who knew about AIDS. He and the staffer identified an HMO-approved provider, and Andy took the earliest available appointment.
(to be continued, read part 4 next tuesday, march 1)
As told to Mark Hubbard
Read previous installments.