Lawrence is an aspiring aerialist. He loves the feeling of flying, though he prefers trapeze to silks, because he can get a better grip on the trapeze. It’s a lot like how he lives his life, he’s willing to take a chance, he believes in divine accidents, and yet he also deeply considers his choices.
Everywhere he goes, Lawrence goes on his bike. He doesn’t just ride because it’s free, or to get exercise, or for the environment, though all those things are true, he rides because it allows him to be open to the space he’s in. “On a bicycle, you’re forced to notice and have compassion for others, you’re not isolated, like people in cars.” Because of that, he believes a riding community is a healthy community, literally and figuratively. There was a time in his life when Lawrence was homeless. “My bike was my best friend, my horse,” he remembers, “I’d sleep on it to keep my head off the ground. It got me somewhere, kept me from sitting still.” Now that he lives in San Francisco, he has a newer, faster bike, “I’m a changing person, I changed my community, so my bike had to change.”
Growing up in the 80s, Lawrence learned about HIV along with the rest of society, so it’s always been something he thinks about. He also has friends and family who are HIV positive, and he currently works as a medical case manager for HIV-positive people. His work is part of what made him open to participating in an HIV vaccine study. “Many of the people I work with believe that the reason HIV is so damaging to the African American community, and that the treatments don’t work as well for us, is because all the studies were done on white men,” he says. “I wanted to be in on the vaccine studies, because I want to know there is African American representation in these trials.”
When he called to learn more about the vaccine study, he had lots of questions, “was I going to get HIV? Was I going to be sterile? Was I going to lose one of my five senses?” But, Lawrence worked with the counselors to get his questions answered (the answer to all of them is ‘no’), and felt they were patient and thorough in addressing his concerns. “To me, the thought of not having a vaccine is scarier than the risks I take being in this study.”
“I’m going to have kids one day,” he says, “and what a gift to them it would be to be born into a world where HIV has been wiped out, gone, like polio or small pox.”