World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.
In the #AMPLIFY project, we ask open ended questions so I cannot possibly know how many of our contributors are living with HIV or who have had personal experiences with loved ones living with HIV. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t talking about their own status or the impact of AIDS on our community.
These posts are contributors (more than 22) who mention AIDS in their responses.
And these posts are from contributors (more than 150) who mention HIV in their responses in some context.
Here are a few excerpts from contributors who mention HIV and/or AIDS in their various responses. They aren’t representative of everyone, but do give you a glimpse into how AIDS has impacted their lives.
Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. Yes, fortunately mostly micro. I’ve mostly been stereotyped as a gay man. Overall I experienced the most disrespect through me being HIV+, even saying things like I should be quarantined, etc. – Joseph, 28
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Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I have excellent health care. I live with HIV and I am never without care. Be it for my physical or mental health both are greatly provided for. – Eric, 35
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Young individuals seeking HIV care and PCP care and they aren’t being properly educated on health choices and other things such as insurance. – Dezmanian, 28
I always assumed he had HIV or AIDS, but to be honest I don’t think he did. He was just thin, lived in NYC, and was gay so in the early 90’s and being a kid of the Nancy Reagan fear generation, I assumed he had full blow AIDS and that someday I would too. – Shain, 32
He died at the exact time my plane touched down on the runway. I realized later, that he held on until I arrived So that someone was there to care for Alan, because he knew his family wouldn’t take care of him.
I stayed for a few days and helped Allen navigate the viciousness that Lee’s family perpetrated, including evicting him from Lee’s house. Before I left, he told me how much it meant to him to have someone who he could share stories with as he went through the life he and Lee had built together. And to have someone stand up for him and his relationship. – Staci, 52
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I lived with a lover over 4 years that passed back in 97 when aids was killing so many people, it did not effect me until I was the person grieving over his loss. – DJ Scott, 52
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. Back in the 1980’s I taught elementary school (5th grade) at a catholic school in Greenfield. The principle knew that I volunteered at the AIDS Task force and asked that I teach the middle school classes the new AIDS lesson being sent out to the schools. The sweetest girl in the class chimed in during the lesson “I know we should feel bad for the people that get this from blood transfusions but we don’t need to feel bad for the gay men because they deserve to die.” After the moment of horror passed we had a discussion about Jesus’s love for all his children. – Jay, 54
I’d been bullied in high school to some extent, though since that was pre-Facebook, it wasn’t 24/7, and I’d internalized a lot of shame, growing up in small town western PA during the Reagan era, when AIDS was pretty much all we knew about “being gay.” Walking into that first meeting, alone, required me to overcome twenty years of conditioning, but when I did, I really understood the power of finally feeling “not alone.” – Erik, 45
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Well. Given my own personal struggles trying to acquire PrEP on a bronze level health plan I’ve noticed that there is very little dialogue about access to this prevention method on the national level, much less the local. Just so you are aware, it’s really difficult. I had to apply for a grant; that will only last me for about three months worth. Then I don’t know what I have to do to stay on it. – John, 34
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) When I lived in Pa, it was well before the AIDS crisis hit, so the Health community we unaware of what to do. Things have changed immensely for the better, because doctors and nurses had to deal with the reality of gay relationships, quickly coming to realize their validity. – Paul, 61
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? The first person who came out to me was a high school friend. I was humbled that he trusted me enough to tell me, and it really opened my eyes to the numerous forms of heterosexism and homophobia he encountered every day. It was 1988, so much of the public conversation still centered around how gay men were responsible for AIDS (and deserved what they got). – Hillary, 44
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Came out when the AIDS epidemic was rampant 1985 – Jez, 50
As always, please visit the #AMPLIFY archive to browse the more than 275 responses. If you are someone with ties to Western Pennsylvania who identifies as LGBTQ and are 18+, we would love to add your stories to the archive. You’ll find the online Q&A here.