For a handful of months now, I’ve been contemplating a decision that I know many long-term HIV survivors have contemplated before me.
That is, I have considered going off my medications—all of them—and letting Nature and the virus just take their course. As a long-time advocate of a patient’s right to choose when and how to end his own life when facing a terminal disease, the decision to cease medication seems to me a perfectly rational, honorable decision available to me.
While enjoying her 72nd year on the planet, Donna Personna knows her remaining days are numbered. Yet the prospect of her demise doesn’t scare her.
“The end question. ‘The end.’ It’s not a touchy subject for me. I’m irreverent,” said Personna, a transgender woman who grew up in San Jose and now lives in San Francisco. “I learned long ago this was going to come.”
Personna, a beloved drag performer, playwright, and hairdresser, credits her Mexican heritage with teaching her that death is a part of life. She pointed to the annual Dia de los Muertos holiday — the Day of the Dead in.... Read More
SAGEPositive: How SAGE cares for long-term survivors of HIV
The 30th annual World AIDS Day was this past Saturday, December 1st, and this year’s theme is “Know your status.” Knowing your status gives you powerful information to keep you and your potential partners healthy. SAGE can refer you to places across New York State where you can.... Read More
Every long-term HIV survivor on the planet has stories to tell about friends, lovers, co-workers, and/or family members whom they lost to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 90s. Anyone familiar with my writing knows the importance I place on our storytelling, our sharing our stories ourselves, to avoid the “straight-washing” of our history that happens when we let others tell our stories. With that in mind, this is a story about the first of my friends to die.
Dean died first. In early 1982. For about a year, we had.... Read More
by Sherrill Wayland, MSW, Manager of National Projects for SAGE.
Elder Justice is LGBT Justice! Whether LGBT older people protested in the streets, founded organizations, or just managed to survive times of social unrest, they laid the groundwork for the progress all LGBT people now enjoy.
Over the past year, SAGE and FORGE collaborated with the National Center on Elder Abuse to create a series of fact sheets that engage, empower, and advocate for elder justice for LGBT older people, their caregivers, and community organizations.
To develop these fact sheets, SAGE conducted focus.... Read More
Around the first of April of this year, I began using a wheelchair when I leave the apartment. This was an inevitability that I resisted, fought off for as long as I could. Admitting that I need a wheelchair struck me as “the last straw,” akin to simply giving up, accepting the fact that the virus is winning. Worse, I have become more of a burden to my fiancé Rick than a companion. (When he read a draft of this column, Rick balked at my thinking I’m a burden on him and assured me that I’m not. He’s a good man that way.)
However, between the debilitating pain in.... Read More
Confronting AIDS and Coming Out Taught Us How to Age Well
A first-ever survey in 2013 of LGBT San Francisco residents aged 60 to 92 found something startling: 15 percent of the 612 respondents had “seriously considered” committing suicide within the last 12 months. Commissioned by the city’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force, the study found high degrees of disability as well as poor physical and mental health—both of which are associated with depression. The researchers were understandably concerned by the high percentage of LGBT seniors who had considered suicide.
Every year, March 20th is designated as National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. As the US Department of Health and Human Services states, the day is “a time to recognize the impact of HIV/AIDS on American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.”
What are HIV and AIDS? HIV is a virus spread through certain body fluids that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. Opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that.... Read More
Honoring Our Experience, a social services program run by the Shanti Project, sponsors a series of REVIVAL dances to honor long-term HIV survivors in San Francisco. Hank wrote this piece for a talent show at the February 2018 REVIVAL dance and has graciously shared it with the Diverse Elders Coalition for publication on our website.
It’s 1959 and I’m six years old. My family has gathered at my grandparents’ house this Sunday to watch The Ed Sullivan Show. I’m sitting on the cold linoleum floor, watching, as this very tall, thin, very regal-looking woman walks onto.... Read More
As I write this article, slightly more than a month before my 65th birthday, I wish was eagerly anticipating a lovely fun-filled celebration. But I know better. I will most likely spend the day in bed with the covers pulled over my head, wondering, “What the hell happened?!”
Not that long ago—although it feels like a lifetime—I was a very active, respected wrestler and amateur MMA fighter—I have a championship belt hanging on my wall that I won in an eight-man MMA tournament in 2001 at age forty-eight. Today,.... Read More