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On World AIDS Day, we hear from a man who's spent 40 years caring for people with HIV


It's Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. And on this World AIDS Day, we hear from someone who has spent 40 years caring for people with HIV.

JOSEPH ROGERS BRITTON: In the early days, I used to sit with babies who were positive for HIV, and all I did was just hold them and rock and sing. You know what the biggest joy was? Finding a smile in that small, sick child - that just made my week.

INSKEEP: Joseph Rogers Britton. During the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, he cared for gay men living with HIV, and he met and fell in love with another caregiver named Steven. Joseph talked about that with his friend Jeff Moore at StoryCorps.

BRITTON: We met doing volunteer work, HIV work, me caring for someone who was dying with HIV. Our first dates for the first six months were sitting on a porch swing every single day and talking till 3 in the morning. We missed every single dinner date, every movie, and that led into a 30-year relationship. And then we found out that we both love gardening. Steven and I used to have a tradition that every fall, when the winter freeze on the rose gardens, we would go and raid the roses. We would snip them all down. And we're talking about a carload of nothing but roses. And then we would go home, have glasses of wine, and we'd fill up every vessel we could find, whether it's a soup can, a bottle, whatever. And we'd secretly run around to every single house of a senior citizen, a single mother, and we'd leave bouquets of roses at their door. And we'd do this all night long. We were giving it out to those who don't get out.

JEFF MOORE: Certainly that kindness that you emanate has meant a lot to me since I've known you.

BRITTON: When you experience people living and dying together, it breaks it down to the things that are important. And it's not the glitz. It's the simple touches. You know, so many people thought that HIV is a death sentence. I've always been very proud of the fact that I'm a living individual with HIV. You see everything as an opportunity because you're here.

MOORE: And you really believe - and you live - if you put kindness out there, kindness is going to come back.

BRITTON: I can guarantee it.


INSKEEP: Joseph Rogers Britton speaking with his friend Jeff Moore. Joseph's longtime partner, Steven, died of lymphoma in 2019. Their conversation has been archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jey Born