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WORLD AIDS DAY, December 1, 1999


Read What Thom Said Recently....

THOM COLLINS
YESTERDAY - TODAY - TOMORROW
SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE

The dawning of the new millennium offers hope for the future while allowing us the opportunity to reflect on the past. What have we really learned about AIDS? Thom Collins offers a unique perspective on the disease, its treatment and the false sense of security and complacency that some of us feel as the century draws to a close.

We met Thom in the mid-80's at the Mr. Gay Texas Contest in Fort Worth. All we knew was that he was from Oklahoma, he danced with Hunter and the Headliners and that he had a boyfriend named David. Thom first appeared on the cover of This Week In Texas in 1987. He was beautiful and it didn't take long for the rest of the country to share our fascination. Over the next fifteen years and through a whirlwind of life in the fast lane, Thom established himself as a gay supermodel icon and circuit legend for the '90's.

His face and body were everywhere. On every magazine cover, from Men's Workout to Genre. From The Advocate to POZ and Circuit Noize. From International Male to Playgirl, where he was the centerfold in January 1991. He was a Chippendale dancer. He did all the talk shows - Oprah, Donahue, Geraldo, Sally. He was there when Hotlanta launched the entire circuit party phenomenon. L.A., New York, South Beach-Thom Collins was all about sex and drugs.

Although Thom was never secretive about the fact that he had tested positive for HIV in 1985, it is only now - fifteen years later - that Thom Colvin has come full circle. Not only is he HIV+ but he wants the world to know that he is a gay man living with AIDS. Ironically, the fame and notoriety that ruled his existance and defined his persona now offers him a platform from which he can promote his agenda: to educate the next generation about HIV and AIDS.

Acknowledging his numerous failures and most private faults, which culminated in a failed attempt at suicide on May 22, 1994, Thom has changed his priorities and put them into their proper perspective. "It was definitely the lowest point in my life. I had completely lost direction. David (his companion) and I were growing apart." He now takes the path of God, Family, Friends, Health and Work, in that order.

Weary of watching friends die alone, Thom and David launched "Open Your Heart", an agency that became the largest home health care facility in Oklahoma. While their agency's mission statement was to "improve the quality of life and provide transitional homes" for others, Thom's own health was deteriorating. "Just because your heart is beating does not mean you are in the land of the living," Thom felt. His second TWT cover feature was released on September 2, 1994. Entitled "Staying Healthy And Postive," Thom revealed the fact that he was HIV+. At the time, he said "I want to use what celebrity status I've achieved to be a role model. With all my mistakes and achievements, I'm still here. After years being HIV positive, I would like to share my philosophy with others and hopefully they can benefit from it."

He quit taking all of his medications at the end of 1996. "Even though there are more long term survivors now, no one should have false expectations of the cocktail." Thom began the long and frustrating process of applying for S.S.I. "Used to be, your t-cells had to be below 200 and you had to have two opportunistic infections (OIs) to be diagnosed with the disease. CDC has since changed their criteria to where it's now either/or". Although in angers him that some people call him a 'whiner,' he nevertheless had to deal with the frustration of living day-to-day. After literally years of trial and error in dealing with the government, he offers some advice for people in the same position he was in. "Be sure your physician is documenting everything. You have the right to review your files. Be sure everything goes onto your chart. There might be a time in the future when you'll need to refer back to them. Don't be afraid to be open with your doctor. Insist on complete documentation and explore all of your options, including the utilization of charities, when the time comes."

Thom also found out a cold and hard fact. "If you don't tell your employer you have HIV/AIDS, they can fire you and there is nothing you can do about it. Before they hire you, you must tell them." Colvin advises getting ahead of the game. "Look for an advocate. We're still a long way from a cure and with research progressing at the rate it is, you cannot afford to be ignorant of the facts."

Even though, in his heart, Thom feels that his "quality of life sucks," he advises that people just now confronting the issue have a definite plan. "We as a community need to work on our inner beauty and intelligence, to give our future younger gay brothers something to reach for in ways of leading us into the future. What can we teach them if we just conquer them as they come out? We need to nurture them and give them the guidance of the dangers of unsafe sex, drugs, and the 'body image' that is shoved in their face as the key to fitting in. The term 'manageable' is a misnomer. Any way you look at it, AIDS is a terminal illness. You must find a doctor you respect."

Having admittingly lived life to the fullest, Tom acknowledges that there isn't much he hasn't done over the years. "I thought I was invincible. While I realize that people have the right to make their own decisions, I would advise that sexually active gay men not get caught up in the moment and let their partners choose for them. 'Barebacking' and participation in 'conversion parties' are situations that should be weighed heavily. "No one - negative or positive - is promised tomorrow. Live your life to the fullest. Live each day as if it were your last while keeping some form of spirituality close to your heart and as a guiding light if you ever get caught up in the darkness. To find inner peace, look above."

After years of beating himself up with the ever-present question, "why me?", Thom realized a much more productive and positive attitude is "why not me?" His most heartfelt suggestion for all of us is also his most pure and basic. "Find some form of spirituality. It doesn't matter what it is - just whatever works for you. Some higher power to focus on and draw upon when needed. Love yourself, have fun and enjoy your life as a proud gay man. However, loving yourself should not be emphasised on your outer appearance or how others perceive your body. I have always felt that my heart and soul are more attractive than my outer appearance. I pray you will find inner peace, spirituality and love for yourself."

Thom will be on aol.live this Wednesday, December 1 at 9:00 p.m. for World AIDS Day. Space allows us to only scratch the surface of this fascinating and inspirational man. To learn more about his innermost thoughts and feelings, visit his website at http://www.thomcollins.com, e-mail him at ThomPOZ@aol.com or write to CMC Enterprises, P.O. Box 20882, Oklahoma City, OK 73156. Thom is currently working on a book to be released through Companion Press. Mark Tobias has created a website which makes donations to Thom's favorite charities. Contact them at www.callingallstars.com to find out more.


The picture of Thom above and the article quoted here were provided by Thom with his express consent to use both here on my site. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for the generous effort he consistently puts forth to make OUR WORLD a better place in which to live. To put it simply, Thom is AWESOME - drop him a note to let him know how very much he is appreciated. Hey Thom...I love you, man! May God continue to bless.





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