Today we honour the lives and experiences of people who are Long Term Survivors of HIV in our communities, people who have been living with HIV since before the introduction of anti-retroviral medications in 1996. These survivors watched many of their friends lose their lives to AIDS related complications and many assumed the same fate awaited them.
At PARN, our work is informed by the knowledge and wisdom of HIV Long Term Survivors. These are people in our community who take leadership roles at PARN, serving on our Board of Directors, committees and advisory groups and volunteering every week in our office. Long Term Survivors in our community make themselves available to people who have been newly diagnosed to offer advice and mentorship, and we make space every month for Survivors to get together to enjoy a meal and share their stories and challenges.
Long Term Survivors in our community are leaders both here and around the world. Long Term Survivors in our community have been instrumental in making the Undetectable=Untransmittable Campaign a worldwide phenomenon that is changing the way governments, health care providers and the general public think, act and talk about HIV.
Our work supporting people living with HIV has adapted to try to meet the needs of older adults living with the virus. Age related diseases, such as arthritis and cancers, can complicate HIV treatments. For people moving into retirement homes and assisted-living facilities, the issue of disclosure rises again, often in the face of stigma from staff and other residents. We are here to help.
This year’s Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day falls during the COVID-19 pandemic and the theme for the day is Not Our First Pandemic. Older people living with HIV can vividly remember what it was like to live with fear of a rapidly transmitting virus, coping with the loss of multiple loved ones, knowing that people were dying alone in hospital beds. Many Long Term Survivors have these experiences and are sharing their stories to help others through this difficult time. We are grateful.
To learn more about HIV Long Term Survivors Day, please visit: https://www.hltsad.org/