On June 5, 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on the occurrence of a very rare pneumonia among gay men in New York and California.
Thus began the thirty-six-year battle against HIV/AIDS.
Commemorating that unfortunate anniversary, the fourth annual nationwide HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day has once again been scheduled for June 5.
Tez Anderson, the founder of Let’s Kick ASS–AIDS Survivor Syndrome, which originated and co-sponsors the annual observance, hopes “to transform the conversation on long-term survivorship to ensure a hopeful message focused on creating a healthier future for older adults with HIV.” The CDC estimates that more than fifty percent of the 1.4 million Americans living with HIV are over the age of fifty; they estimate that by 2020, that percentage will rise to seventy percent. HLTSAD2017 hopes to “elevate the voices of HIV Long-Term Survivors” and to highlight that the strength and resilience of the HIV community.
“HLTSAD2017 is an opportunity to have picnics, potlucks or town halls. It is about ending the isolation survivors often experience,” Tez explains. “We want to increase the visibility of the thousands of survivors.”
To that end, and in keeping with the “HIV-Resilient” theme, Tez and LKA encourage long-term HIV survivors and others to utilize social media to tell their stories of survivors’ resilience. Organizers hope that long-term survivors and their families and friends will share their stories through writing, photographs, and/or videos to celebrate the resilience of a long-battered community that has turned “surviving” into “thriving” despite incredible odds. Twitter users can follow HLTSAD at @HIVSurvivors; preferred hashtags for the commemoration are #HIVResilient, #HLTSAD2017, and #LongTermSurvivors. Facebook users can share their stories and images on the HIV Long Term Survivors Awareness Day page.
The commemoration’s “accentuate the positive” approach this year, celebrating resilience and strength, seems particularly appropriate at this time. “Given the current political climate, when our healthcare is being threatened by a new administration, it’s vital that we hear the stories of survivors of the worst epidemic of the modern age,” Tez writes. Facing down those threats will require that we all remain strong and resilient.
Reporting by Hank Trout