The Next Step in HIV and Aging

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I spend a lot of time online following social media. Many hours I'm on Facebook and Twitter reading and sharing things I think are important to me and ACG and my peers. One of my many passions is searching for more information on HIV and aging. Being someone who is living with both, it's becoming important to me to make sure I can live out my senior years with dignity like anyone else. What I'm learning is that the healthcare system isn't really ready for me as a gay man, or as someone who is living with HIV.

Some things I have read online are, every 12 seconds someone in the world will be infected with HIV, in America it's believed that every 9.5 minutes someone will be infected. I haven't heard any numbers being mentioned for Canadians but I'm sure there are and we need to be very concerned. What these numbers tell us is that there are many people right now who are aging with HIV and will soon be part of the healthcare system in the near future; there will be many hundreds of thousands who will follow.

When scientists, medical establishments and activists learned what they were dealing with back in the early 1980s they went to work to organize and find treatments and learn how to care for the people who were infected. Due to all the work they did over the years and what we've learned from the survivors, we are now able to live long full and worthwhile lives with HIV today. They are all leaders, true heroes in my mind. We can never forget the people who lost the fight. Their existence gave scientists and the medical community so much valued information.

In 2010, I sat on a panel at ACG's HIV and Aging Symposium. During that event I listened to a gentleman talk about his work trying to find out what Long-term care had available for the LGBTQ community. I have to say, I wasn't impressed to hear what the healthcare people were telling him: "we don't know, we've never had a gay person in one of our facilities". WHAT? Hearing this only strengthened my need to make this my mission - I must get involved and try to make things better for my peers and for myself.

Like the leaders and heroes that came before us, the ones who made it easier for us to live outside a closet, who made it possible for us to live with HIV, we are the leaders of today and tomorrow who must take us the rest of the way. We can make the world better for us all. We need to organize like they did in the 80s, we need to open talks with the Healthcare system. We need them to understand that we are humans, that HIV isn't something to be afraid of, that Universal precautions are all that is needed like with another patient/client/resident.

I know that ACG is going to be active in reaching out to the healthcare system in our area and I want to be a part of it in anyway I can. Having worked as a Personal Support Worker, I can see how the stigma and lack of education I encountered is present in the healthcare system. I believe in putting a face to this disease and telling my story. It will have some impact on changing the stigma and beliefs of many people working in healthcare.

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Ontario
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