As people living with HIV (PLHIV), we’re living in an age of social change. Today it is easier than ever to ‘slip through the cracks’. We’re seeing this more and more as HIV health services and care are mainstreamed, as our community ages and as new technologies change the ways we connect and support each other.
Many of us recently diagnosed with HIV benefit from the advances in understanding, in medications, and life expectancy. We also benefit from the social and political efforts of PLHIV who struggled hard in past fearful and uncertain times to improve the lives of those living with HIV. As a result of those early years’ medications and discrimination, these same PLHIV now live with a range of other health complications, both physical and emotional, which compromise their lives. As a community, these pioneers of our past must not be left behind.
Learning of a new HIV diagnosis can be daunting, just as living long-term with HIV. With life expectancy for PLHIV now be on par with life expectancy for those without HIV, as our community ages, there are extra burdens coming into focus. Some of us are feeling worn out living with symptoms acquired through the early years of HIV treatment, and the ‘fuck it’ factor seems to be impacting on our community.
For PLHIV who are struggling with mental health or alcohol and drug dependency, there is added stigma within the general community. Ostracising or segregating our fellow PLHIV who are already marginalised by the general community is unhelpful and risks hurting ourselves as well.
It’s easy to forget what it was like when you first learnt of your diagnosis. After a couple of years once we get used to living with HIV and your medications have a usual routine, it’s important we’re there when a friend, co-worker or acquaintance with a new diagnosis reaches out for support, just like we need to be there for our fellow PLHIV who have been living longer term with HIV.
Today we could be a colleague next to you at work, or on the machine at the gym. We can be talking to you on Scruff or even sharing a drink at the pub with friends. Some of us have been living happy, healthy and full lives with HIV for many years while others are struggling with the uncertainty of their new diagnosis and are not doing as well.
As a community, let’s show compassion and empathy for all of our ‘community’, men, women and trans, in the best of health or not, new to HIV or long term. There are positive people in the community who might be your friends or family or total strangers who are feeling isolated. They might want help, guidance or support, and don’t feel their voice is heard. Acceptance and empathy can make a big difference to someone’s day or life at a time when they might need it most.
If you’re looking for social support, call Positive Life on (02) 9206-2177 to find out when our next social event is on or email firstname.lastname@example.org