June 5 1981—the day the CDC (Centers for Disease Control in the US) first announced that a new “gay cancer” was spreading. Soon it would be called GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), and later AIDS.
Individuals diagnosed saw their communities decimated. In those more homophobic times friends and community were often the only family gay men had, and that support system struggled to keep up with the need to care for the sick and grieving while also advocating for recognition, support and medical care.
Being a long-term survivor of HIV means years of managing a chronic medical condition, dealing with social stigma and ignorance, and with the uncertainties and health impacts that come with HIV and aging. For the people who acquired HIV in the 1980s and early 90s—before modern treatments—and for their friends and family, being long-term survivors also means carrying the trauma of losing entire communities.
Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day reminds us of the personal impact on long-term survivors of HIV, of the changing face of the epidemic, and the changing needs of those impacted by HIV.
See Bob Leahy’s personal take on this on PositiveLite.