US: Three decades later, men who survived the 'gay plague' speak out

"If you could take a test that would tell if you would be alive in two years, would you take it?"

That was the question Mark S. King said he had to ask himself in the early '80s when friends and loved ones were dying of the "gay plague."

"I decided I wanted to know," King told NBC News, reflecting back on the day he decided to get tested. On March 15, 1985, King received a call from his friend, a nurse, who had discreetly tested him for the virus — he was positive.

Gay men weren’t supposed to get tested at the time, King said, because there wasn’t a single treatment available anyway. In fact, activists were urging people not to take it.

“The only thing that could happen would be getting fired from your job or kicked out by your roommate or disowned by your family,” King explained. “None of the outcomes were good.”

America was in the throes of panic on the day King picked up the phone in Los Angeles. On TV, politicians on both sides of the aisle were debating in earnest whether gay people should be quarantined. In the White House, Reagan hadn’t so much as mentioned AIDS. But everywhere and every day, friends, relatives, acquaintances and partners were dying.

“It was like a 'Twilight Zone' episode where everyone in town just starts disappearing,” King said of that time. “It was the bank teller at your bank who wasn’t there one day. It was your favorite bartender. It was the guy who did your hair. They just stopped being there.”

Death was the last thing King thought he would have to confront when he moved to West Hollywood from Houston to pursue an acting career. He was 24 years old and eager to enjoy life. Instead, he found himself at an epicenter of the HIV outbreak that would shape the gay world in the United States for years to come. Read more via NBC