The Voices of the Silenced
When asked to think of the predominant challenges facing people as they age today, the common answers may be physical mobility and accessibility, savings and wealth management, or finding safe, affordable housing. These challenges are increased for LGBTQ+ older people, who may face maltreatment due to their sexual orientation or live in fear of discrimination. However, due to incredible advancements in medicine and science, many of the Stonewall generation are now experiencing a far less talked about challenge: aging with HIV.
In the late 90’s at the height of the AIDS epidemic, it was inconceivable to imagine that individuals who were diagnosed would live to be considered elders. However, today, over 50% of those living with HIV are over the age of 50. This is largely due to the success of Antiretroviral therapy (ART), which can significantly increase life expectancy if administered early and with consistency. Despite this, populations of color, especially black and Latino people, were, and remain, disproportionally affected by this disease.
HIV is not solely a health issue, but an aging issue, and an ethnic issue. Today, in honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we are featuring the voices of two influential black, HIV-positive advocates. These incredible individuals, and others in their field, are fighting to improve the lives and share the too often silenced stories of those aging with HIV.
By: Malcolm Reid
I’m a kid from the projects in the Bronx. My dad left when I was 8. I was the “man” of the house. I couldn’t be no faggot. I had to go out into the world a black man – feared and hated. I had to survive.
When I look back on those years, I realize I was being trained to become the man I am today. As a black, gay man in my teens and twenties, I was being armed to deal with the world. Strength, fortitude intelligence and resilience; are my superpowers.
When I was 40, HIV came into my life and I had to learn to deal with that as well. I had to fight the stigma, fight the shame, and fight the trauma. Now I am stronger than ever – ready, and more importantly, willing to fight for other black gay men living with HIV. I use my superpowers every day as I advocate for health equity. I work with my team on the #SilverLiningProject to educate and provide tools for folks to deal with the trauma, to deal with PTSD, to deal with loss and depression – which enables us to rise up and not just deal with stigma, but look it in the eye and say “fuck you.”
Four t-cells and six-months to live
By: Joe Robinson
In May 2001, when I received my diagnosis, I was told I had four t-cells and six-months to live. Today, at the great age of 60, I’m an African-American man living with the virus for 18+ years, and it’s vital to me to continually find ways to be a voice for those who never reached this pinnacle in life. The journey here was not a bed of roses; however I had a guardian angel named Maria who encouraged me to learn everything I could about the virus. From being a part of the Ryan White Planning Council and the NIH Adult Clinical Trials Group, as well as other committees, as well as attending the Black Aids Institute, I’ve learned the importance of education and advocacy on behalf of my community. Today’s date is crucial to honor as consistent awareness is vital to the survival of my community while we seek ways to end the epidemic. #THRIVESS #IthrivebecauseIswallow
Please note that these are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAGE.
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MALCOLM REID, Program Manager at Thrive Silver Lining Project
BIO: Malcolm Reid has been working with THRIVE SS to support black men living with HIV for the last 4 years. He is a co-author and Program Manager of the Silver Lining Project; a program to support and advocate for black gay men over the age of 50, living with HIV. He is also the co-founder and co-director of PASAN, the Political and Social Action Network. He represents THRIVE SS on the USPLHIV Caucus Steering Committee, where he is co-chair of the Federal Policy subcommittee, and he represents Fulton County, GA District 2 on the Fulton County HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care and Policy Advisory Committee. A strong believer in Meaningful Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDs, Malcolm works hard to keep black men living with HIV aware of public policy and politics and how to advocate effectively. https://www.thrivess.org
JOE ROBINSON, Program Coordinator, Thrive Silver Lining Project
BIO: After my diagnosis in 2001, I’ve served in several capacities around HIV. I attended the Black Aids Institute, served as Chairperson – Sacrament HIV Planning Council, Community Member – NIH Clinical Trials Group, Board Member – CARES, Sacramento California, participated in 2003 State Summit on African Americans & HIV/Oakland CA, Chairperson/Community Advisory Board Member-NCCFAR/ACTU, Central California Coordinator HIV Interfaith Program – Ark of Refuge San Francisco, CA. https://www.thrivess.org