Dr. James Schmidtberger, co-author of Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide was recently interviewed about his two decades experience working as a physician with people living with HIV. Read the article at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation website.
I just learned from Oxford University Press that Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide was distributed this month with printing errors. They have agreed to reprint the book and will send out new copies in January. If you have a book with errors, you should be able to get a new one.
We are at the end of the third decade of the World AIDS epidemic. The disease has impacted the lives of people throughout the globe and reshaped societies. Today the epidemic has a very different meaning in the developed world than twenty-nine years ago. Because of advances in the treatment of HIV disease, Aging is now THE issue in the United States. Not only are people living longer than expected, but by 2015 the majority of people living with HIV in the US will be over fifty years old. The aging of HIV means that we need to develop new policies and treatments for the disease. People living with HIV must adapt to the challenges of growing older and develop new mindset of Optimal aging with HIV. To read my World AIDS day article for Edge magazine follow this link – Edge magazine.
I would not have been able to write Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide without the support of so many people, particularly the men who let me into their lives and shared their experiences with me. They are the reason why this book exists. There’s Tim (all names have been changed) who gives tribute to the friends he lost when he does activism in the community. Arthur who is grateful to his parents for giving him support and self-esteem when many of his friends were rejected by their families for being gay. Joe who never thought he would live to see middle age and now practices gratitude toward his body every day he wakes up. These men have experienced so many losses and, yet, they are thankful. I am grateful to them, because the experience of getting to know them has changed me, and taught me to appreciate the opportunities that I have been given.
I just got a note from the Editor that Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide is on its way from the printer and will be arriving at the offices of Oxford University Press tomorrow. How long it will take it for you to find it in a bookstore near you is still unknown. Apologies go out to Amazon.com users who have been told that they will not get their copies for a few more weeks. I hope that the wait turns out to be shorter.
Last Saturday Dr. Stephen Karpiak and I spoke at the SAGE National Constituents Conference, The Future of Aging is in Our Hands! Our workshop, “Aging with HIV: The Complications for Success,” was well attended by a mix of people, including gay men living with HIV, activists, and social workers from the LGBT community.
Dr. Karpiak presented the background statistics, using graphs compiled from CDC and other data, which clearly and dramatically demonstrated the magnitude of the issue. People over fifty make up a large and growing segment of those living with HIV. He also presented the findings from the ROAH study from ACRIA on HIV Over Fifty. The data gives a picture into the psycho-social issues faced by this group. Particularly striking to me was the multiple co-morbid conditions (issues including depression, physical illness, financial limitations, lack of social support) that impact the lives of people living with HIV over age fifty.
Dr. Karpiak shared his evaluation about the workshop with me: “It is always reinforcing to see research data supported by the observations of the clinician. This was clearly the case at our dual presentation at the SAGE Meetings this past weekend. ACRIA’s research on the older adult with HIV (ROAH) describes a population who are long-term survivors in the HIV epidemic. They have had to develop different coping strategies as they shifted from the expected short life following an HIV/AIDS diagnoses to a long life span due to effective drug treatment. And now they face another challenge. At age 50-60 they are developing multiple age-related disorders that would typically be seen in 75+ year old adults. We know that successful aging is achieved when the person has support from their social networks – caregiving. But the older person with HIV, like the older lgbt person, is largely without traditional family networks from which most caregivers are derived. They cannot fight this next challenge alone. How will our community respond to this need? Will they respond ?”
For my part, I focused on what we know about aging from the gerontological literature and the unique concerns I identified in my research on HIV over fifty. People over age fifty living with HIV face many of the same challenges of aging as those who are HIV negative. However, HIV complicates the picture in a number of ways, including, but certainly not limited to, symptom ambiguity – the difficulty determining whether an ailment is age or AIDS-related. After presenting the challenges faced by people aging with HIV, I presented some of the solutions found in the gerontological literature to help people optimize their experience of aging.
The workshop included a lengthy group discussion in which audiences members shared their experiences, challenges, and what works for them. It was exactly the type of conversation that I advocate for in Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide, to empower people to define Optimal aging with HIV for themselves.
Just a reminder that I will be presenting on Aging with HIV with Dr. Steven Karpiak of ACRIA at the SAGE National Constituent Conference this Saturday, November 13th. I’m glad to be a part of this hands-on conference. It should be an empowering experience.
- Thought-provoking workshops and plenary sessions on a wide range of topics that affect LGBT older adults, such as self-advocacy and empowerment, health and wellness, aging and ageism, and caregiving;
- Renowned speakers from across the LGBT and aging fields;
- Free clinics where you can get advice from experts on the legal, financial, health and financial issues that directly impact your life;
- Special documentary film screenings;
- Opportunities to network with colleagues from across the country;
- And much, much more!
We still have one month before publication of Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide and we’ve already hit the 1,000 mark. Because of your interest in the subject, bookstores and libraries across the country have pre-ordered 1,000 copies of the book. Thanks for your help getting the word out there.
Thank you for including me in your blog posting on Aging with HIV for MyFabulousDisease.com. Your site is a perfect forum for this timely dialogue.
In your note you asked several questions about the physical complications of aging with HIV and the emotional interaction between living with HIV and aging into midlife and beyond. Both, are very big subjects. And, while there is growing interest in this area, we are just beginning to understand what it means to age with HIV. We are at the forefront of a new era in HIV treatment, and much like the early days of the epidemic, people living with the virus are the experts and have to keep updated on new developments and partner with their doctors in order to determine the best course of action.
This is the reason why I wrote Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide – to help gay men who have lived longer than they ever expected as they manage the transition of aging.
The literature presents several emotional challenges that accompany adult development. They include, among others, physical changes, new roles in the family, and shifts in our work lives. For gay men living with HIV adaptation to aging also involves responding to changes in the AIDS epidemic and the transition of HIV from a terminal illness to a chronic disease.
Aging is a challenge for all of us. But, for gay men living with HIV it is even more complex. As you know, this generation of gay men living with HIV have spent the last two decades embroiled in a battle with the AIDS epidemic: Caring for themselves and loved ones; living through immeasurable losses; and managing their own threat of mortality. This war has utilized all their emotional resources and few have had the time to consider the challenge of aging.
It is easy to get stuck in the task of adapting to aging with HIV. Signs of stagnation include living in the past, isolating, and avoiding social involvement. Research has found higher rates of depression, lack of social support, and reduced quality of life among middle aged and older people living with HIV. Adapting to aging with HIV can become complicated when emotional issues such as HIV-stigma, internalized ageism, unresolved grief, or survivor guilt impact one’s ability to care for oneself fully in the present.
Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide offers guidance to navigate this uncharted territory. The book draws from my qualitative research, as well as my training as a psychotherapist and 20 years of experience in the field. Questions and exercises guide the reader through self-examination to evaluate how he is adapting to the challenges of aging with HIV and to develop tools to optimize their experience. There are quotes from gay men living with HIV, as well as brief text boxes that review the relevant research. The book also includes a chapter by James Schmidtberger, MD, Director of the Leicht Clinic, an HIV-clinic in New York City, reviewing the medical research on HIV over fifty.
My hope is that Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide will start conversations across the country that normalize the experience of aging and empower gay men to define for themselves what it means to optimally age with HIV.
I am headed for San Francisco. I hope to have the opportunity to learn more about how gay men are adapting to the challenges of aging with HIV on the other side of the country. I think I will have much to share, however, I may not have the opportunity to add any new posts until I return on Oct. 12th.
In the meantime I encourage you to keep the conversation going. Add your thoughts about aging with HIV to the Community page. Find support using the links on the Resources page. Send me an email via my link on the Psychotherapy page. And, you can still pre-order Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide at a discounted price on Amazon. Just click on Buy the Book, above.
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