We have to celebrate the wins and continue to build alliances and forge partnerships.
By Jeff Berry, Executive Director
June 5 is HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day. When I read the daily news, I sometimes ask myself, I survived the AIDS epidemic for this? With everything from climate change to racism to economic inequality to gun violence, not to mention the extreme polarization in this country, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to break through all the noise and talk about things like “quality of life” and “aging with grace and dignity.”
LGBTQ people—and by proxy people living with HIV—are under attack around the world and right here in the U.S., our lives are literally at stake. Right now, there are over 500 anti-gay and anti-trans bills in statehouses and municipalities around the country. Last summer the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and 50 years of precedent, and took away the constitutional right to abortion, which threatens all of us and our ability to make private and personal decisions about our own health care. Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the banning of books, removing the teaching of critical race theory in learning institutions…they are just getting started. We cannot allow the gains we have made as people living with HIV and LGBTQ people to be rolled back, we’ve come too far. We will not be forced back in the closet.
Ultimately, we have to celebrate the wins, however small they may seem, and continue to build alliances and forge partnerships, whether they be political, business, or personal, they are all important. These small wins are what give us hope and continue to move us forward.
One recent win was The Reunion Project’s Town Hall Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama this past April. Over 150 long-term survivors and their allies gathered for two days to learn about employment resources and benefits that are available to them, tips on living and thriving while aging with HIV, issues around mental health, and spirituality. People opened up and shared their stories—some for the very first time—of how they overcame stigma and discrimination to find their way to resilience. It was an empowering and uplifting event. And we were grateful to have a block from the National AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed at our event—allowing us to honor our past while looking toward the future, which is our mission.
So, on this HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day I encourage you to celebrate the wins in your life and work, and take a moment to thank your fellow survivors (and thrivers) for the work that they do. Take nothing for granted, because it can all be taken away in an instant. We have some hard work ahead of us, so pace yourself, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But working together, we can do this. TRP’s commitment to convene and connect long-term survivors of HIV to strategize for our future, works to ensure that we all have a future worth fighting for.