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Richard Kearns, AIDSoverSIXTY: A letter to alex garner at frontiers la in response to his article titled “hiv-positive and over 50, where are you?”

A letter to Alex Garner at Frontiers LA in response to his article titled “HIV-positive and over 50, where are you?”
by Richard Kearns, October 23, 2011

Dear Alex—

My name is Richard Kearns. I am a 60-year-old gay man living with AIDS in Los Angeles for the last 30 years, a longterm survivor and AIDS activist (you have to be), a medical cannabis user and advocate (ditto). I publish a blog called, and before that I published another blog titled that ran for almost five years before it was hacked beyond recoverability. In February of 2010 I worked with LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl’s office to host the “LA Advocacy Summit and New Media Training Conference” (“new tricks for old dogs & their allies”), modeled after Sunnie Rose’s work at Life Group LA.

Since the 2010 conference I spent two fairly lengthy stints in the hospital — my kidneys imploded, and my legs looked like they belonged to the Michelin man. I am doing better, having managed to escape dialysis so far. But I have this love-hate thing with the hospital. They are grim edifices of pain, power and expense, focal points of social abuse and betrayal. Anyway.

I currently live in a remote assisted care facility where I was dumped two years ago by another facility doing what’s called gentrifying — they evicted the 130 of us living there at the time and then tripled the rent. Two weeks ago, in my struggles to move back to the area around Cedars Sinai, where my doc practices, I was refused housing at another assisted care facility because I have AIDS. And those are big-time 2011-2012 issues.

That roughly catches us up, though there’s always more. I am busy advocating for myself and for us as I struggle along here. I am delighted you are now looking for me. Here I am. And I could sure use your help, as well as be some help to you.

I have to say I was pretty surprised by your article. I’ve been here struggling all along. In fact, there are probably more of me than of you — Ithink your statistics are incorrect. I think already the majority of people living with HIV/AIDS are over 50 now. Additionally, two thirds of gay men living with HIV/AIDS live by themselves. It’s been brutal. two-thirds of straight people our age live with at least one other family member. Someone there to make sure you eat or take your pills. Someone to get you to the doc if you need to go. Someone to watch over you. It makes assisted care reform an issue for both the HIV/AIDS community and the Gay community.

As we age with AIDS, the PLWHA community over 50 is going to migrate to the assisted care system. Thousands of persons in LA, tens of thousands of persons statewide. I have been down to LA City Hall to talk about it (here and here) recently, and I also hope to work with the Occupy LA movement. I am aware of your HIV advocacy and appreciate it (the last I remember seeing on the subject of  Criminilazation of HIV) and would be happy to talk with you or file regular reports with frontiers of my “oldster” experiences.

Looking forward to hearing back from you soon,

Richard Kearns


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