The fifth annual HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day (HLTSAD) is Tuesday, June 5, 2018.
The fifth of June is an important date in the history of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It was on that date that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on the first cases of a rare pneumonia affecting young gay men living in New York and California.
The theme of HLTSAD 2018 is HIV: It Is (Still) Not Over. As health departments, HIV services organizations, and the community at large focus on “ending AIDS” and “getting to zero”—goals that are indeed lofty and worthy of our enthusiastic support—many of those who have lived longest with HIV continue to feel isolated and left behind. Twenty-six percent of the 1.3-million Americans living with HIV—The AIDS Generation— were diagnosed in the pre-HAART days, before 1996; many others have lived with the virus for over fifteen years. In addition to feeling isolated, ignored, many long-term survivors live in poverty and cope with AIDS Survivors Syndrome (ASS) which includes depression, anxiety, and a host of other social and mental factors impacting treatment adherence, quality of life, and well-being. “Instead of being celebrated as the pioneers they are,” says Tez Anderson, founder of Let’s Kick ASS—AIDS Survivor Syndrome, “they are frightened about the prospects of aging with HIV, a virus that decimated our community.
“Before we ‘End AIDS,’ let’s take care of on the needs and issues of long-term survivors, people who have lived with HIV for twenty-five and thirty-five-plus years,” Tez continues. “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.”
In addition to the isolation and depression many long-term survivors experience, they are also more susceptible to conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, liver, and kidney failure, and visceral adipose tissue (lipodystrophy) and GI issues. HLTSAD hopes to raise awareness of these and other conditions impacting the HIV community.
For more information regarding HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day 2018, log on to www.HLTSAD.org; also check out www.hiv.gov/events/awareness-days/hiv-long-term-survivors-day and look for HIVLongTermSurvivorsAwarenessDay on Facebook. On Twitter, use and watch for hashtags #ItIsStillNotOver, #HIV #LongTermSurvivors, and #HLTAD2018.
—Reporting by Hank Trout
Hank Trout, Editor at Large, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a thirty-eight-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his fiancé Rick. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.