Karl Vidt moved to Santa Clara County in 1969. When the AIDS epidemic began in the early 1980s, he did not pay much attention to it, believing it was “something affecting people in San Francisco.”
Vidt became much more aware of the disease and the toll it was taking in 1985 when he joined the board of the Metropolitan Community Church, one of the first denominations in the South Bay to provide a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for the LGBTQ community. Coincidentally, the church became the original home of the Aris Project the same year that Vidt joined its board.
Despite his work with the church, Vidt did not get tested until 1989 when he learned that he was HIV positive. He remembers being “just numb” after getting the news. He says that the tester who told him he was positive, Sandy Gudino, was kind and spent more than an hour with him answering questions and giving him information.
Vidt told few people about his diagnosis. “I just picked up and went on.” However, by 1991 he had gotten sick and was taking regular medications. In the fall of 1992, he came down with Pneumocystis carinii, the strain of pneumonia that had been closely associated with the AIDS epidemic since the early 80s.
In 1993, he developed an infection in his eyes that eventually led to his blindness in December 1996. Throughout the early 90s, Vidt survived with virtually no T-cells whatsoever. Luckily, by the mid-90s his T-cell count began to grow with the introduction of new medications. This led to an overall improvement in his health. He got his first guide dog in 1999, which significantly improved his self-sufficiency and mobility. He was able to play an active role in the community again and continued working at Metropolitan Community Church as the half-time church
Vidt also threw himself into the thick of the fight against HIV/AIDS in the South Bay. He joined the Santa Clara County HIV Planning Council for Prevention and Care in 2002. He spent multiple years as chair of its Care and Treatment Committee. He also served a stint as the chair of its Planning and Resources Committee. In addition to his HIV Planning Council service, Vidt also served on the City of San Jose’s Disability Advisory Commission and spent four years as chair of the Santa Clara County World AIDS Day Committee.
Vidt says all of the volunteer service is just his way of contributing to the health care system that he believes has taken such good care of him since his diagnosis. “There was a time when I thought my parents would have to take care of me. Who would have guessed that now I am taking care of my mom,” he said.
In 2008, Vidt received the Leslie David Burgess Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his service to HIV/AIDS prevention and care, along with being a shining example for others with HIV/AIDS.