We’re just two months away from the publication of Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide. I am including this excerpt from the Preface to acquaint you with the book:
Is This Book For You?
- Have you lived with HIV longer than you ever expected to?
- Have you spent the past 5, 10, or 20 years dealing with the impact of HIV on your life, your friends, and your community?
- Do you wonder whether changes in your body are due to AIDS or age?
- Have you made plans for your future?
- Are you satisfied with your life today?
If you’re like the men with whom I spoke, you probably didn’t think you would live long enough to concern yourself with aging. All of a sudden you’ve become aware of changes in the way you feel physically, in the way others treat you, and in your interests and priorities. Aging with HIV means adapting to a whole list of unexpected changes.
See if you relate to these gay men as they talk about aging with HIV:
Tim*: I never thought I would live this long. I’ve buried all my friends. I didn’t think I’d see forty, and I’m over fifty!
Mario: Now I, pardon my Armenian, I don’t give a flying fuck, you know? I just don’t care. So I find that the older I’ve been getting and my friends my own age say the same thing, most of us, you just get to a point where you realize life really just isn’t about anything that anybody else thinks. It’s about you. It’s about what you think. You know and who cares what anyone else thinks?
Luis: Because I don’t think of the virus has… has changed me. I think it’s changed me is my age. My wisdom. My experiences. Times. I don’t think it’s been the virus. I don’t think the virus has slowed me down. I think I’ve slowed down. I’m seeing life different. Because of being a middle aged man. Not because I’m a gay man, or because I’m an HIV man. Because I’m a middle aged man. And I see life and I see people and I see the times and I see how things have changed.
Peter: Bette Davis had it right, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.”
If you identify with these statements, then consider this:
Research on aging tells us that, in general, we follow a somewhat predictable path of development from childhood to old age. Each era of life presents a series of challenges that, when mastered, help us prepare for the next stage of life. In middle adulthood we deal with common issues in the areas of physical changes, career issues, family, and relationships that help us plan for the future. We make decisions such as whether to take a job in a new city, how to care for aging parents, and when to make commitments in our relationships. We travel on this path of development with a cohort of peers who are involved in many of the same tasks. Our peers are not only friends we can rely on for support, they also serve as mirrors of our experience. We compare ourselves to others in our age group to evaluate how we are progressing along our life course.
But AIDS has knocked many gay men off their life course. As Mark put it, “We are the generation wiped out by HIV.” Since AIDS was first identified in 1981, gay men have been engaged in a consuming battle with HIV. Just as a country at war diverts its resources from areas such as health care to military funding, gay men of this generation have put their efforts into fighting the effects of HIV and AIDS in their bodies and communities.
Meanwhile time has rolled on and aging has affected all the areas of your life: Your body has changed; your friendships and social life are no longer the same, you have a different perspective on work and money, you have a new role in your family, and you have a new attitude about sex and dating. The strategies that you had been using to cope with the challenges of life no longer work in the same way. Whether you recently learned your status or you’ve been living with HIV for decades you need help getting back on your life course to make the most of this phase of your life and to prepare for the future.
That’s where this book comes in.
*All names have been changed.