In 1986, I moved from Atlanta to San Francisco because I had fallen in love with a man who lived here. The HIV test had come out a year earlier, and he knew he was negative, so I walked five blocks down the hill to the clinic and took The Test. Two weeks later, I was told it came back positive for HIV. I immediately made an appointment with a respected HIV doctor who told me I had less than two years to live. I was 26. It would be a few years before I figured out that I had acquired HIV in 1983.
From 1981 until 1998, having HIV was considered a “death sentence.” I witness my loved one and a huge swath of my community die young — all the while fully expecting to be the next one to die. At the end of the two years, I was still physically healthy, so he said I would be lucky if I lived another two years. It went on like that for a decade. Along the way, I watched my T-cells dwindle and had AIDS-related illnesses, all signs of certain death. I lived at death’s door so long, it was all I knew.
I certainly had no idea then that I’d live long enough to be a long-term survivor, or live to be a 58-year-old man. I’m aging with HIV, and I am not alone. I am in the majority. As of 2015, nearly 50% of all people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States were over 50 years of age. By 2020 that will rise to 70%. It is a paradigm shift in the demographics of HIV. It is also another frontier that no other generation has explored.
We watched HIV go from a “death sentence” and to a “chronic manageable illness” in the late 1990s. Patients were told after 1998 they could expect to “to live a normal lifespan.” That was a vastly different experience than for those of us living who were diagnosed before.
World AIDS Day 2017 #WAD2017 #LetsKickASS #HIV #LongTermSurvivors