On June 5, 1981, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was officially recognized for the first time. They didn’t know what it was yet, but the CDC in the United States “reported cases of young gay men dying from a rare pneumonia.” A lot has changed in 37 years, and people who are diagnosed with HIV today have a much different experience than those who were diagnosed in the early days. That group–collectively known as Long Term Survivors– have had diverse experiences, but they also have many things in common: they were all diagnosed at a time when there was little hope of survival, many watched their friends and community die and believed they would be next, and today they are the first generation who is aging with HIV, which has its own unique challenges.
“Health departments, HIV services organizations and the community are focused on “ending AIDS” and “getting to zero”– goals that are lofty but leave those living longest with HIV feeling isolated and left behind,” Tez Anderson founder of Let’s Kick ASS (AIDS Survivor Syndrome) writes for Plus Magazine. “Before we end AIDS, let’s take care of the needs and issues of long-term survivors, people who have lived with HIV for 25 and 35-plus years. Our lives were dramatically changed by the epidemic, and it feels like the community has moved on. The meme ‘we lost an entire generation to AIDS’ is wrong. We lost much of a generation, but there are many of us still here, surviving against the odds.”
June 5 marks Long Term Survivors Day, a day which “celebrates and honors long-term survivors of the epidemic and raises awareness of their needs, issues and journeys.”
Winnipeg man alive 30 years after HIV diagnosis
HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day
These Gay Men Have Spent 30 Years Learning How To Be Long-Term HIV Survivors
‘I Spent Decades Planning to Die.’ What It’s Like to Survive HIV for More Than 30 Years
For Long Term Survivors:
HIV Long-Term Survivors League– a private, moderated Facebook Group Page.