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"I felt like a freak," she says. "I was taller than every teacher but one and the janitor. That janitor and I spent a lot of quality time together."
Her father liked a good argument, and the family talked about news at the dinner table. AIDS was a big topic of conversation on those evenings when Goggin was in high school. She noticed one story about a hospice in Long Beach where infected men were receiving care.
She went looking for the place and found it in an upscale neighborhood, populated mostly by gay men. It was a small house, with five bedrooms, a kitchen and a living area, run by a Franciscan monk who wore the same brown polyester suit most days. From the outside, nothing about the house revealed who was staying there. Men heard about it at homeless shelters.
Goggin thought the house looked cute. But when she went inside, the smells hit her. The tenants were in the advanced stages of the virus; most stayed in bed. They look like skeletons, Goggin thought.
Goggin visited for two months. She spent her time cooking meals and cleaning. Basketball was her way into the men's heads. She sat on their beds and watched games with them. She remembers one Lakers fan she liked to antagonize by rooting for the Boston Celtics. Eventually, they started telling her their stories. Few had any family. She got the impression that most of them weren't gay men, like the ones she'd read about in the newspaper, but intravenous drug users. Sometimes she knew they wouldn't be there the next day.
While Goggin was learning about AIDS firsthand, bad ideas about the virus were spreading. People didn't understand how it was transmitted, and they were scared. One day, Goggin came home to find her father arguing with a conservative friend. She remembers how her father ended the conversation: "You try to stop her from going there, then!"
Nobody did. She spent more time with the Franciscan, often complaining that no one was helping the patients particularly the churches and the government.
Then the Franciscan took her aside and told her, very calmly, that the Catholic Church had paid for the hospice and given it to him. Church leaders wouldn't be sending any more help, though, and they didn't want anyone to know they'd been involved.
The news that the church had funded the hospice just made her more angry.
"I got pissed. I'm still pissed."
Goggin went to California State University and studied psychology. After graduation, she went on to work in clinical trials because she thought that was where she could help HIV-AIDS patients most directly and see the most concrete results. On the side, she helped set up AIDS awareness programs and did what she could to educate people about prevention.
She earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1994 and went on to work as a researcher at New York Hospital in New York City. Though AIDS infection rates at the time were holding steady among gay men, they were rising in the general population of blacks. There, working on AIDS-prevention projects, she'd seen how churches were the centers of the black community, but church leaders had trouble finding ways to educate people about the virus. She wrote health surveys as a way to open the door to talking about AIDS, which was on the rise among black youth but was an uncomfortable thing to talk about, given its connection to premarital sex, drug use and homosexuality.