In a World of Hurst

Imagine this:
The person you love has AIDS. He's also in prison for theft. They're not going to let him out, even though the person he stole from didn't want him to go to prison. Even though the person he stole from married him after he went to prison.

Imagine that person is you.
Christina Hurst doesn't have to imagine.
At the age of 35, she's already lived a couple of lives. She was an alcoholic and a drug addict. She was a hooker on Van Buren. Through what seems like sheer will power, she got clean and went to school. Now she works as a Women's HIV Task Force Representative for Phoenix Body Positive.

It was during her turning-around period that she met Arthur Hurst.
They met at the start of the decade, and hoped it would herald a new start for their lives. Both were in recovery and were trying to get their lives back together. Things happened fast between them. Christina became pregnant almost immediately, and their daughter was born in April 1991.

Then Arthur heard that a former girlfriend had died as a result of AIDS. He got tested and was diagnosed as HIV positive.

The news caused him to relapse. "He was thinking, 'I'm going to die anyway--might as well use drugs again,'" says Christina. She stayed sober, and her support helped him get sober again. "He went into a drug-treatment facility for people with HIV. We worked things out . . ."

Arthur left the treatment facility and moved into Christina's house. Things were good. Then, she says, "Something happened, I don't know what. He was having a real hard time because he wasn't well enough to work. He went on social security." It took a while for that to come through. "He went for about a year without an income, and he had a real hard time with the fact that I was supporting him and that I was taking care of our daughter. We were living off my student loans, federal grants and AFDC--every public assistance program that was available--to get me through school. That was Arthur's dream, too, for me to finish school. That was real important to him. When he had to quit working and go on social security, he had a hard time with it, so he relapsed again."

This was where it stopped being a movie romance. "At that point, I had been sober for three years," says Christina. "I told him that he had to leave the house, because we had a 3-year-old and I couldn't risk having a person using drugs in my house."

He moved out. But he left with a stereo and VCR, and tickets for a Pink Floyd concert that Christina had bought. She called the cops and charged him with theft.

She admits she was angry, but she also rationalizes her action. "I'd bought the tickets on a credit card, so if I filed a police report, Dillard's would replace them. So I filed the report, and it was the worst thing I've ever done."

Arthur went to Colorado, where he checked himself into a rehab center that caters to HIV-positive drug users.

"He wanted to come back here after he'd gotten himself straightened out, and I agreed. He turned himself in to the courts there and let them know where he was. He knew there was a warrant out for him and he wanted to take care of it. So the police went to Colorado and got him.

"They took him back to Phoenix while he was on a methadone program. They took him to Arpaio's lovely palace downtown and let him detox off the methadone. Just cold turkey--threw him in a cell. He was there for almost nine months. No medical treatment, no nothing. His T-cells at that point were 150." A person in normal health will have a T-cell count of about 1,000. Centers for Disease Control define a person with a T-cell count of less than 200 as suffering from full-blown AIDS.

Arthur went to court three times, and three times his case was continued because no public defender showed up to represent him. Finally, Christina and Arthur's mother came up with $3,000 to hire an attorney.

"We wanted to go to trial, we wanted to fight it because they were offering us 10 years because he had one prior conviction. That was for attempted drug possession. It happened when he was first getting sober, and he didn't even have drugs on him. He had drug paraphernalia. He pleaded guilty to that, and was on probation for it. So they labeled him a repeat offender. They have mandatory sentencing in Arizona, so they wanted to give him 10 years. We wanted to take it to trial, but the attorney couldn't take it to trial for less than $5,000. He wanted $5,000 to even touch it."

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Barry Graham