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HIV infection changes life objectives for IU doctorate student


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By Mark Keierleber



Randy Hubach has vivid dreams.

Frequently, the 29-year-old IU doctoral student lives an entire day while asleep.

He imagines himself going to class; he takes exams and he solves specific statistics
problems. Living in his dreams are the people he was last with before going to bed, possibly a classmate or family member.

On one occasion, Hubach recalls sitting at the cluttered wooden desk inside his small, one-bedroom apartment. Only mentally, he wrote an entire essay.

Unlike some, this dream did not end in violence.

Sometimes, he suddenly loses recognition of the characters in his mind. Then he kills them.

“It’s not like when you think of a horror film where you see the chainsaw come out and do it,” Hubach said. “You don’t really go through that process.” 

Usually ending his dreams by waking up at about 4 a.m., he thinks “Oh, that was kind of screwed up,” falls back asleep and later forgets most of the specific details. 

When he first started having the vivid hallucinations in 2008, he thought they were only nightmares, something everybody experiences.

But he soon realized they mean something more.

Instead, the dreams are a common side effect of his $3,000-a-month medication.
Every day, Hubach goes to class, sometimes as a student and other times as the instructor. He strives to find his place in this world, to find success.

But he never forgets that he lives with an incurable, and sometimes deadly, infection.
In 2002, he tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus.

***

Worldwide, an estimated 33.3 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, more than 1 million of whom live in the United States, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. An estimated 56,300 new HIV infections are reported in the U.S. each year, with one new infection every nine and a half
minutes.

As of December 2011, approximately 10,225 Hoosiers are living with HIV/AIDS, 212 of which live in Monroe County.

New HIV diagnoses are most prevalent in individuals between the ages of 18 and 24, Hubach said.

“People who are college-age, emerging adults, only about 50 percent of those living with HIV actually know their diagnosis,” Hubach said.

There is no cure.

“How many people know somebody who is living with HIV?” Hubach asked, standing at the front of a lecture hall in the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation building.

None of the students raised their hands.

“You all said that you probably know nobody with HIV in your circle,” Hubach said. “Well, I’m in your circle now.”

Hubach taught two classes spring semester: human sexuality in the psychology department and stress management for HPER. But on this occasion, he was a guest lecturer for Alexandra Marshall’s human sexuality course.

“He disclosed his HIV status to the class,” said Marshall, who is a Ph.D. candidate and associate instructor at IU. “I think that adds a personal component and some exposure that students may not have had before.”

Before his lecture, Hubach taped large sheets of paper on the walls of the lecture hall, each including the name of one STI. The students were asked to walk to one of the sheets of paper and write everything they knew about that specific STI.

“I haven’t had this talk in so long,” one of the students said to another, who agreed.

“Who wants to go first?” Hubach asked.

A woman in front of the paper marked for HIV/AIDS volunteered.

“How do you get it?” Hubach asked the woman.

“Mothers to infants, drugs, sex, blood transfusions, bad needles basically,” she
responded.

“Oh,” Hubach said. “So, you have the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll type of thing, and then your mom.”

All transmissions mentioned were correct, he said. But he later explained other ways someone can become infected.

“It is in saliva, it is in tears,” Hubach said. “However, the amount that is in it is so minuscule that if we look at saliva, you would have to drink about five gallons of someone’s saliva to get enough concentration of the HIV virus to where you would be even remotely at risk for the virus. So technically, your stomach would explode and you would die, and then maybe you would be at risk for HIV.”

Hubach continued through the other STIs.

“If you’re going to get one of these, if you had to choose, the two I would pick are chlamydia and gonorrhea,” Hubach said in his typical deep, nonchalant voice. “You take some pills, you do two weeks of doxycycline, you go through it, you’re as good as gold, go fuck some more.”

Although Hubach disclosed his HIV status, he excluded his sexual preference.
He does not want to perpetuate the stereotype that only homosexuals contract HIV, he said. Anybody — straight, gay, male, female — can become infected. He just happens to also be gay.

***

Hubach said he always knew he was a little different.

Born in San Diego, he and his family moved a lot when he was younger. His father was in the Navy.

“Even as a child, you wouldn’t meet your best friend,” Hubach said.

Though reclusive, he said he developed tight relationships with his family.

When Hubach’s father retired from the Navy in the mid-’90s, they moved back to southern California.

Hubach met his first girlfriend in eighth grade. She was a sophomore in high school, he said. Throughout high school, he had three other girlfriends. 

Hubach said he was attracted to them. He enjoyed the relationships. He was still unaware of his homosexual status.

“Going through the struggles in junior high and high school where you’re quote and quote (sic) attracted to your girlfriend, but you’re also attracted to some guy in your class and you don’t really know what to make of it,” Hubach said.

Instead of finding guidance, Hubach drove himself harder academically.

Hubach wanted to become a politician. He said he even interned as a page for a Republican congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Preparing to graduate high school, he hoped to go to Stanford but never applied. He settled with Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he studied political science and history and played trombone in the marching band.

While at a bowling alley his freshman year, he first came out to another gay member of the band.

Back in California for fall break, he first told his mother.

His mother, he said, was sitting on the couch in the living room. He walked into the room, sat down on another couch and told her outright.

“I’ve got something I want to talk to you about,” he remembers telling her. “I’m gay.”
Next was his father.

Leading up to the conversation, he said he was nervous, but if they reacted adversely, he knew he would return to Texas in only a few days.

“How are people going to react?” he said he asked himself at the time. “What is going to happen when they take it?”

Turns out, he said, they handled the news quite well.

During his freshman year at SMU in 2000, he found his first boyfriend. But during his sophomore year, he found the boyfriend who would eventually give him HIV.

After dating for about a year in what Hubach thought was a monogamous relationship, he started getting sick.

Eventually, he went to the doctor.

“You might want to get your affairs in order,” Hubach said he recalls his doctor telling him. “Just so you know, we ran an HIV test and you’re HIV positive. I don’t know how much longer you are going to live.”
At first, Hubach said he got angry.

“You have these thoughts about ‘Oh, I want to kill so-and-so,’” Hubach said. “For me it was like, ‘Oh my god, am I going to die?’”

But he quickly went back to his daily routine. To him, he said, the news did not
seem real.

He ignored the virus’ existence until he went back to California. For several years he went without taking any form of medication, until his infection progressed.
Then, for the first time, his infection felt real.

His mother was the first person he told, Hubach said. Though shocked, Hubach said his mother still remained calm.

“It was almost like a dual coming-out process because sometimes when you meet people you have to first come out as a gay individual, but then you have to say you’re a gay individual who is living with HIV,” Hubach said.

He said he still struggles to determine when it is appropriate to disclose his infection.

***

Outside class, Hubach brings his condition with him everywhere he goes, more than just physically.

At the Indiana Memorial Union, Hubach and Margo Bennett, a colleague and fellow doctorate student with Hubach, spoke to a group.

Hubach and Bennett, who are both volunteers at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, have decided to form a networking group of IU students interested in issues surrounding sexuality and gender.

On the balcony at the IMU, they had their first meeting on March 21.

“I think it is just a nice social outlet,” Hubach said. “Our social lives are usually research or hanging out with people in our program, so it is kind of nice to meet people with similar interests.”

Although no plans were finalized, the students brainstormed the details of their soon-to-be student organization.

Among the attendees was sophomore Jenny Agostino, who took a human sexuality course taught by Hubach Fall semester.

“One day he brought in dildos and stuff and showed us how to put condoms on them,” Agostino said. “He did a lot of demonstrations that really got the class to interact.”

Although she learned from him for a semester, Agostino said she was unaware of his HIV status.

“You don’t go up to somebody and say, ‘Hi, my name is Randy or so-and-so, and I have high cholesterol, so I might die by the age of 40,’” Hubach said.

And when he has told people he has HIV, he has received negative reactions.

In an Italian restaurant in Orange County, Calif., in 2006, Hubach went on a date with his partner of two months.

They ordered their food, and then Randy disclosed his HIV status.

“It looks like this relationship might be going farther,” Hubach recalls saying. “I respect you and so before we do anything else, or even go down that path, I’m HIV positive.’”
Hubach said the man immediately reacted negatively.

“‘Oh my god, you’re trying to kill me,’” Hubach recalled the man saying. “‘You’re such a fucking asshole.’” Then the man walked out of the
restaurant.

When the server arrived with their food, Hubach told the server that his friend was not feeling well. He asked to get the meals to go, paid the bill and left.

“I think there’s a time in all of our lives when we want to be in a relationship and we seek a relationship,” Hubach said. “I think for myself, that was the turning point of focusing more on ‘What do I want to do with my life?’”

***

Hubach sat alone at the desk in his apartment.

On his laptop, he checked his email for the last time that night. With a quiz scheduled in one of his classes the following morning, his students had last-minute questions.

Procrastinating, he checked Facebook. On his desk, the date on his wooden Mickey Mouse calendar had already been changed.

Standing from his large wooden desk, Hubach walked into his bedroom. On the nightstand was an assortment of pill bottles.

For the last four years, he has taken the pills every day except two. But just to be sure, he set the pill on the lid of the bottle, left his bedroom and began unpacking his overstuffed backpack.

All prepared for his next day of school, he poured a glass of water and choked down the pills in one gulp.

In a matter of minutes, his eyelids began to droop. Sitting at his desk, he began to feel loopy, drowsy.

It was time for Hubach to go to bed.

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To ensure that he remembers to take all his medication, Randy always sets his pills on top of the bottles before he takes them. He normally takes at least 6 different types of medication before he goes to sleep. He cannot drink alcohol after he takes his medication and this often makes for awkward conversation when he tries to explain to his friends why he can't join them some evenings. Mark Felix Buy Photos
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While the majority of Randy's collectibles are Eastern Asian art, he also keeps a few collectibles that remind him of his home in California. When the doctor first told Randy he was HIV positive, he said it didn't really sink in until he was forced to tell his parents back at their home. Mark Felix Buy Photos
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Besides being a participant in the Bloomington AIDS Walk, Randy also encouraged his students to attend and promised them extra credit if they showed up and were able to bring him back a program from the event. He is always attempting to balance school work and his social life. Mark Felix Buy Photos
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Taking a moment to share a laugh with his colleague Alexandra Marshall, Randy relaxes after teaching a guest lecture on sexual diseases and how they're transmitted. Mark Felix Buy Photos
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An avid collector of sexual health books, Randy has original copies of Alfred Kinsey's sexual behavior books that revolutionized the 1950's. Growing up, it was hard to cope with his sexual orientation but Kinsey's books were helpful as he got older. “Going through the struggles in junior high and high school where you’re quote and quote attracted to your girlfriend, but you’re also attracted to some guy in your class and you don’t really know what to make of it. ” Mark Felix Buy Photos
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Every night before he goes to bed, Randy makes sure to sort through his school work to make sure he has everything done for both his classes that he takes and the ones that he teaches. He says it's stressful, but that he's sure all students feel that way. Mark Felix Buy Photos
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Randy is often asked to be a guest lecturer for different sexual health classes. Mark Felix Buy Photos

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