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Gary Beverley was my second partner and the first to die from AIDS. We met on a Saturday in April 1988 at the Bulldog where I was celebrating my 21st birthday. I can still picture it clearly and hear ‘Heaven is a place on earth’ playing, loudly! At the time, I was an aspiring clone, and Gary, 11 years older, had fully achieved clone status! I was drawn to his seductive smile, sparkling blue eyes, humour, wonderful laughter, tight fitting 501’s and perfectly polished DM’s. A five-year relationship began, and we were living together within months. Gary introduced me to new friends and experiences, and started my rapid exploration as a Gay man. It was exciting to share the Brighton Gay scene and beyond with Gary, but we also saw the fear and prejudice of HIV. Each year we lost more friends, saw more diagnosed, and then watched them quickly become seriously unwell, frail and die. Our relationship wasn’t always easy, but I never stopped loving Gary’s animated charm, and before AIDS progressed, his independent spirit. By 1992 Gary’s health had deteriorated and everyone commented on his weight loss and appearance. On a hot summer day in July, we both tested for HIV already knowing the results deep down. Gary had started showing signs of AIDS-related dementia, and the wonderful bright, vivacious, and independent man I loved quickly deteriorated with awful symptoms and eventually total loss of capacity. I’m sure others recall how distressing AIDS-related dementia was. I spent every day with Gary, right up to his death, willingly and wholeheartedly there as the awful disease rapidly progressed and diminished his mind and body. Throughout, he had occasional glimmers and signs of recognition, smiles and shared laughter, an outstretched hand for love and affection, and almost until the last moment, still cried out for me ‘my Gary.’ We were fortunate to be supported by loving close friends, Open Door, wonderful nurses & professionals, and so many others with HIV who stood with us in solidarity. I will always love Gary (tearful now) and remember the massively different time of HIV and AIDS, which for those who survived has been entirely life changing.
Words by Gary Pargeter - 2021