We’ve all heard how gay men become increasingly invisible the older they get, but what about HIV-positive men who are over 50? Are they doubly invisible? This is a call out to older positive men: the community needs you.
Last night I attended a workshop sponsored by The Life Group LA and the talk was about the latest advances in healthy aging with HIV. The speaker for the event was Nelson Vergel, an accomplished writer, advocate and lecturer on HIV health and wellness issues. It was a very compelling workshop with lots of discussion about aging and testosterone and how the basic challenges we face when growing older are complicated by HIV.
After i left the workshop, the one broader question I was left with was, “Where are older HIV-positive men?” There are plenty of them out there, like the prolific Mr. Vergel, but often the first thing people want to talk about in regards to HIV is protecting the young people and taking care of their needs. However, the aging HIV population is growing at an increasing rate. By 2015, adults over 50 with comprise half of the population of people living with HIV.
So with these large numbers, why do older poz men still seem so invisible? It is shame and stigma? Is it the misguided notion of the value of youth on our communities? Are we all just blind to this segment of our community?
I’ve always had great respect and admiration for older gay men because they, along with lesbians, kept our culture and community alive in the midst of our darkest hour. An hour that seemed to last forever. Now that our community is thriving, we have to make sure all parts of our community are still an integral part of our culture.
Intergenerational relationships are something men of my age lost out on because so many people died in the ’80s and the survivors were completely traumatized. Now we have the opportunity to repair those bridges. We can take care of ourselves, the aging and the youth all at the same time. But we don’t have to do it alone. We have the wisdom and energy and insight of all parts of our communities to ensure our brothers and sisters flourish well into their golden years.