Crimes and Generations, or How We Throw Our Elders Out With the Bathwater
By Dave R.
April 19, 2012
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Can we detach ourselves from this cycle of abuse and take people with HIV out of the equation? Realistically, probably not but we must do our best to see that bullying in care homes on account of someone's sexuality becomes a thing of the past. Too many seniors with or without HIV are ending up in situations where they have to deny who they are and maintain secrecy to survive socially. For them the circle is ironically rounded.
The ideal solution would be for HIV organisations and Gay groups to look into the possibilities of creating senior communities of their own, where safety would be more or less guaranteed. Many people will disagree vehemently with this idea of segregation, which we've fought against for decades. I maintain however, that people with HIV have been through enough by the time they reach old age and deserve to live in a caring and secure environment. I'm pretty sure that given the choice between that and ending up in a heterosexual nursing home, most people would be happier living amongst like-minded people.
The elephant in the room is of course, finance. In these days of financial crisis, it's not likely that local authorities or businesses will subsidize HIV/gay only nursing homes; they just don't have that sort of investment cash, especially when there's a functional system already in place. Apart from that, selling it to their voters means supporting a sort of positive discrimination and voters are just not going to buy that. We need the Elton Johns, Bill Gates and other wealthy gay-friendly philanthropists to start the ball rolling.
Protected living communities for gay people do exist in various countries but they can generally be counted on the fingers of one hand. Surprising considering that gay people are a better financial risk than almost any other social catchment but it takes a leap of faith for a housing complex owner to cater for one small group only. Then you have the HIV factor to take into account and the odds of finding such social benefactors are lessened even more.
Gay and gay health organisations need to push the agenda as hard as they can and that means pestering the media with stories of specific abuse based on sexuality or health status until they take notice. It sounds cynical beyond words but the more tragic the story; the more likely something will be done about it. Again, you can present the strongest case possible and it still boils down to who's going to pay for it all. Look at famine in Africa: Live Aid rightly got all the attention and all the support for Ethiopia in 1984 but the well was dry when it came to the next few countries to suffer. There's always a cash and sympathy limit and when one or the other runs out, the next deserving cause will suffer.
Nevertheless, what is happening in the world's care facilities for the elderly is nothing short of shocking and unacceptable: we shouldn't need to press for action, it should go without saying. However, people with HIV are well used to the sympathy game and know that nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to a fickle public. That's why, change and planning for the future of our HIV-positive senior citizens needs to come from within our own communities.
How to achieve the right sort of conditions for people to grow old gracefully is an organizational headache. The individual just doesn't have enough information, influence or money to even begin to implement change. Yes at 62 I may have a vested interest but the headlines from across the world don't lie. If it's not going to be you, it may well be an elderly relative or friend, who is forced into this sort of purgatory. I'm not fanatical about family (you can't choose them!) but it seems to me that there's a need for a return to the sort of culture where old age is cared for, admired and respected (however cantankerous grandma can be!). If we don't, we'll be tossing a generation of brave men and women onto the rubbish heap of history and leaving them to fend for themselves.
Finally, let's hope that these two Homer Simpson quotes never stop being funny because they've become bitter reality:
"Marge please! Old people don't need companionship. They need to be isolated and studied so it can be determined what nutrients they have that might be extracted for our personal use."
"Aw, Dad, you've done a lot of great things, but you're a very old man, and old people are useless."
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HIV, Neuropathy and More: Avoiding Becoming a Nervous Wreck
English but living since 1986 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. HIV+ since 2004 and a neuropathy patient since 2007. I've seen quite a bit, done quite a bit and bought quite a few t-shirts if you know what I mean; but all that baggage makes me what I am today: a better person I believe, despite it all.
Arriving on TheBody.com, originally, was the end result of getting neuropathy as a side effect of the medication, or the virus, or both. I found it such a vague disease and discovered very little information that wasn't commercially tinged, or scientifically impenetrable, so I decided to create a daily Blog and a website where practical information, hints, tips and experiences for patients could be gathered together in one place.
However, I was also given the chance to write about other aspects of living with HIV and have now contributed more articles about those than about neuropathy. That said, neuropathy remains my 'core subject' although one which unfortunately dominates both my life and that of many other HIV-positive people.
I'm not a doctor or qualified medical expert, just someone with neuropathy and HIV who has spent the last few years researching the illness and trying to create information sources for people who want to know more.
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