A number of years ago, back in 1993, the year prior to my AIDS diagnosis, a serious problem began to arise in communities, that were thought to be anomalies. That problem was HETEROSEXUAL Elderly Men and Women, who became infected with AIDS.
In Fort Lauderdale, in those times, the ratio of Women to Men were 10 to 1. For every man living in any condo community, there were upwards of 10 Women. It became apparent that those men and women were sexually active, either between themselves, or with others, outside of any specific community. If the virus was introduced to a community, Women were becoming a serious statistic.
We called it the “CONDO COMMANDO EFFECT.”
Educational awareness programs were begun. And the AIDS crises centers and Planned Parenthood got involved. It just so happened that the first test center I visited, was a Planned Parenthood office, in Fort Lauderdale.
So nobody can tell me that Planned Parenthood was not useful.
The story I can share about this time, was that after my test results came back Negative, we also learned, in hindsight, that the test results of AIDS patients who WERE actually positive, came back Negative. However, an entire community of elderly people, were mistakenly diagnosed with AIDS, when we learned that test results were mistakenly switched with a living facility and an AIDS test clinic.
The other night, a report was shown on the CTV National news about a man who is 99 years old. And has been living with AIDS for more than twenty five years. He was actually infected in his seventies. Because they said, in the report, that he has been living with AIDS for a quarter of a century. Which would turn into a window in his seventies. The physician treating him, also said, that he believed that the man had been INFECTED years earlier.
The television news report was focused on the man’s LONGEVITY.
Longevity is a key indicator of life expectancy for people living with AIDS. Because when I was diagnosed there were no specialized doctors, but those who worked off hours, hunting for needles in a haystack and drawing at straws to try and keep people alive, against the odds.And there were no drugs to take either, not for another handful of years to come.
I was one of those people.
I crossed the twenty five year mark this year. Today I am 51 years old. I survived several death calls, and live to tell the tale.
They say that the reason the Lisbon Patient is still alive, is because of his lifestyle, his attention to life, AND his taking his pills religiously, every day.
They did not name him or show is face, because his family fears retribution and hatred. It seems, even in Lisbon, AIDS is not a very welcome illness.
We know today that AIDS has moved from a terminal death sentence to a daily managed chronic illness.
I lived through phase two of the AIDS crisis. I was a second generation gay man who contracted AIDS in the mid nineties. I know of some men, who were diagnosed much, much earlier, in the eighties.
Very few of those men survived. However, there are pockets of men in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, who did live, and still live today.
Out of the 500 men who were diagnosed in my Social Circle, only two of us are still alive. My friend Mark, who lives in Florida, he was diagnosed years before I was, and then, myself.
Longevity and Quality of life are paramount when dealing with ANY Chronic Illness or Terminal Disease. After a few years waiting to die, when I did not die, I went to work for Cedar’s Sinai Cancer Hospice, where I spent time working with people who were very ill. Some of them survived, many did not.
My experience, strength and hope was not wasted.
I was very lucky that I had the right doctors, who believed in very specific treatment strategies back in the day. In 1996, I moved to Miami, in search of a doctor that specialized in AIDS treatment. I believe he set me on the path to living a long life, because he took care of the TOTAL patient. We had comprehensive IV, drug, treatment, mental and social treatment.
That founding treatment set my body up for success.
When I moved to Canada and met my doctor I have today, he promised me a long life, if in trade, I did him a favor. For more than ten years, I tested every drug that went into market here in Canada. We saved lives for sure.
I can tell that story confidently, because I am still alive.
AIDS in our fifties is another story about Longevity.
The Lisbon Patient shows us that men in their late nineties, who live with AIDS, as a chronic Illness, survive.
The Lisbon Patient is a Rubicon. Something we should all look at as example of what can be possible, if we too, take care of ourselves.
It’s all about LONGEVITY.