The theme for 2016 is “Moving Forward Together”. It celebrates those who have defied the odds by living with HIV for decades. Our focus is on ensuring that HIV Long-Term Survivors and Older Adults Living with HIV are not invisible and forgotten in the current HIV dialogue. We want to change the narrative from surviving to thriving. Achieving that goal requires older adults with HIV to be equipped for healthy aging. Long-term survival, once an almost unimaginable concept is now the norm.
With courage and compassion, we survived the darkest days of the plague. Without access to effective treatments, we were forced to rely on each other and ourselves. As individuals and a community, we exhibited strength we didn’t know we had. Now we’re face the conundrums of aging. Celebrating our lives is what the day is all about.
Today over half of all people living with HIV in the US are over 50. By 2020 that will increase to 70 percent. The mew face of HIV is aging. However, HIV and Aging is not a monolith. A case can be made that Pre-HAART survivors and Post-HAART survivors are separate cohorts with overlapping but different medical and psychosocial needs. Longest term survivors, those who acquired HIV before 1996, face different medical issues and decades of planning to is having an impact on our lives now.
We now find ourselves confronting the realities of aging— something that was unimaginable before 1996. We’re the generation who were told to plan to die young. By the end of that year, in the U.S. we witnessed the deaths of 362,004 of our loved ones and community. 6.4 million people had died form AIDS worldwide.
We chose June 5 to commemorate the day the CDC first announced the mysterious illness that was killing young gay men. It was the beginning of HIV/AIDS awareness before it was known as HIV/AIDS.
There’s a meme that “we lost an entire generation.” While we did a lot of our generation their are by recent estimates, 26% of Longest-Term Survivors alive now. Let’s celebrate, honor and appreciate that they still have years go and it is all our job to help them become the elders of our tribe.