When I transitioned to AIDS twenty-five years ago, I had no expectation to live. At one point my T-Cell count was 8. Good treatment for HIV/AIDS had not been developed. It was a sad and scary period in the AIDS Pandemic. But I fought for my life and so did my HIV doctor. I did everything that was asked of me, but some days it was a bitter pill to swallow, literally. At my worst I took 32 pills a day and the side effects were not pretty, but I survived that ugly era as did many others.
Like me and so many others, we not only have a story to tell, we also put a face to this disease with historical perspective. For sure the greying of AIDS, includes those of us who have lived and aged with HIV whether it’s been fifteen or thirty years, but it's also the population of new infections among the 50 and older. About 15% of new cases represent that age group. This makes it important to tell our story not only to provide hope for those living, but as prevention for those seniors who believe HIV only affects the young.
Well Beyond HIV is an awesome exhibit featuring men and women living with HIV who are fifty and older. This traveling art exhibit was curated in collaboration with The Graying of AIDS. It was life size inspiration to witness other peoples’ stories of aging with HIV.
In those early days of our diagnosis many of us lived in isolation for fear of being judged. Thirty-Five years into this pandemic, I will admit that things have changed some, this bold exhibit is one example, but stigma continues to be an uphill battle. I firmly believe that medical technology has advanced quicker than our attitudes about HIV and those living with HIV. Well Beyond HIV provides a forum for people over 50 living with HIV. It is a place not only to create community but to provide tools for living well with this disease.
Today, there is so much information available on living with HIV. What makes the Well Beyond HIV Tumblr page a great place is its focus on the 50 and older community. Yes, this birthday is yet another milestone and I'm so proud that I didn't give up on myself. I'm excited, grateful and humble to still be alive. I think grey looks good on me *flips hair* and I feel like I'm moving into a new phase of my life. I have so many dreams for myself and I'm putting those dreams into action every day I take a breath. Like Queen Bee said, "Ima keep running cause a winner don't quit on themselves."
I was sponsored by Walgreens to write this blog post. All opinions expressed are my own.