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Up Close & Personal

Find inspiration in these personal perspectives from people 50 and older who are living with HIV. In the personal stories, blog entries and advice collections below, you'll find firsthand views on dating, sex, substance use, homophobia, disclosure, religion, self-esteem, social justice, growing older and much more.

Video Interviews | First-Person Stories | Bloggers | Tips and Advice

Video Interviews

Ronda Hodges

This Positive Life: An Interview With Ronda Hodges
After 31 years of separation from her ex-husband, Ralph, Ronda Hodges reunited with her ex and they became engaged to be remarried. At a routine check-up, they were both diagnosed with HIV, and Ralph passed away six months later. Now, at 50 years old, Ronda is starting her life over as a divorced mother, an HIV advocate and a single woman.

Patricia Nalls

This Positive Life: An Interview With Patricia Nalls
When Patricia Nalls was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, she thought she was the only woman living with HIV. She also never believed she'd live to see her children grow up. Still, she was determined to find and reach out to other women like her in her area. Now a grandmother, Patricia still runs an influential Washington, D.C., women's organization that began as a small support group in her living room.

Dab Garner

Dab Garner's 30-Year Story of Survival
Dab Garner, committed longtime activist and father of Dab the AIDS Bear Project, unfolds his life from the very dawn of the AIDS epidemic until today -- from becoming one of the first AIDS patients in San Francisco to his life in the service of others with HIV. Dab's calm manner shows a man at peace with his fate, his survival and the ghosts around him.

James Bender

This Positive Life: An Interview With James Bender
James Bender, a heterosexual former U.S. Navy soldier, believed that HIV was a gay white male disease. But when James tested positive in the summer of 1987, he realized that HIV can affect anyone. This father of one and HIV advocate talks about the stigma and discrimination that face people living with HIV in the U.S. South and why he never grows tired of talking about the epidemic.

Wanda Hernandez

This Positive Life: An Interview With Wanda Hernandez
When Wanda was diagnosed with HIV in 1995, she was completely shocked; she thought she had always practiced safer sex. Like many people who are newly diagnosed, fear began to take over. But instead of letting that fear consume her, she educated herself about HIV and eventually became an activist lobbying in Albany, N.Y., on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS. This mother of one talks about the importance of securing housing for people living with HIV/AIDS and why the AIDS community can never give up hope.

Cassandra Whitty

This Positive Life: An Interview With Cassandra Whitty
Despite having numerous conditions related to HIV/AIDS and making multiple hospital trips, like so many others, Cassandra Whitty fell through the testing gaps and was misdiagnosed before finally testing HIV positive in 2000. Cassandra admits she never really thought that HIV could happen to her. This mother and grandmother shares her experiences grappling with her diagnosis, how disclosing made all the difference, and why being an HIV/AIDS advocate is her life's calling.

Petra Berrios and Efrain Carrasquillo

A Day in the Life Video Series: Two Longtime HIV Survivors Share Love and Support
"There's days that she's my rock," says Efrain Carrasquillo of his wife, Petra Berrios. She says the same about him; the couple met in 2004 and married soon after. Petra and Efrain talk about their family and relationship, and share tips they use to get through the rougher patches of living with HIV/AIDS and taking HIV meds.

For many more videos and other interviews, browse our listing of personal stories featuring HIV-positive people age 50 and older.

First-Person Stories

Oliver W. Martin III

This Positive Life: Oliver W. Martin III
In 1986, when Oliver W. Martin III was diagnosed with HIV, then called GRID, he wasn't alone. His younger brother, who was also same-gender-loving, was diagnosed at the same time. But for a decade, the two of them told almost no one. Only when effective HIV treatment became available did they share their diagnoses with their large, tightly-knit family.

Sherri Lewis

Sherri Lewis
Sherri Lewis, an ex-pop singer and recovering drug user, found out she was positive in 1987 after taking a blood test for her marriage license. Prior to her diagnosis, Sherri thought that HIV was a gay man's issue -- she only knew one woman who died of AIDS. In this interview, Sherri talks about her tumultuous childhood, her rise and fall from fame, her drug addiction and her experiences living with and surviving HIV.

Jane Fowler

Jane Fowler
"Many diseases can't be prevented. But HIV can," says Jane Fowler. In the 20-plus years since she was diagnosed with HIV at age 55, awareness of the unique impact of HIV on older adults has grown considerably -- and the community has Jane to thank, in part, for that awareness. But her true passion lies in HIV prevention education. A renowned speaker and advocate for people, especially women, who are over 50 and living with HIV, she's been scandalizing teenagers since the mid-1990s with the information that, yes, their parents and grandparents do have sex, and need to know more about HIV.

Jane Fowler

This Positive Life: Rafael Abadia
I got to see the 'dirty side' of AIDS in the '80s and '90s," remarks Rafael Abadia; "Younger people really haven't. I don't think they see the urgency." Rafael came close to death several times in those early years of the epidemic, and has taken numerous HIV treatment regimens. He's also been involved in advocacy, battling stigma, homophobia, AIDSphobia and fighting for access to care for others. Nowadays, he's still tirelessly working to raise awareness of HIV in Latino communities in his home state of Florida.

Millicent Foster

Millicent Foster: Living My Life Positively
"I've been ridiculed and criticized because of my HIV status," writes Louisiana resident Millicent Foster; "But that has just made me more determined." That determination has led this grandmother of two to become a committed HIV community educator and volunteer. Here, Millicent writes her own story of facing addiction and tragic loss, turning her life onto a different path -- and drawing from family and faith for support.

This listing is just the beginning: Read many more stories featuring a diverse range of people who are 50 or older and living with HIV.


Mark S. King

Mark S. King: My Fabulous Disease
He's a gay, HIV-positive recovering meth addict in his early 50s with an informative, hilarious video blog. What's not to like?

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton: Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae was the first African-American woman living with HIV/AIDS to tell her story on the cover of a national publication. Since then, she's spent nearly two decades sharing her life, unique style, hopes, dreams, and disappointments with a worldwide audience through interviews, ministry, public speaking and, most recently, social media.

Reggie Smith

Reggie Smith: RISE4WAR -- Focusing on Wellness, Awareness and Recovery
"We need more heterosexual couples to share their strength, hope and experiences with the world," writes Reggie Smith. He and wife Dionne -- parents of four, and now grandparents -- have been living with HIV since Reggie's diagnosis in 1988, and they're committed to fighting all forms of HIV stigma.

Dave R.

Dave R.: HIV and Neuropathy: How to Avoid Becoming a Nervous Wreck
When Dave R. realized "there simply isn't a cure for neuropathy, in the same way that there isn't a cure for HIV," he started educating himself, and others, on how to manage the mysterious condition that he -- along with about 30 percent of HIVers -- was facing.

Rev. Andrena Ingram

Rev. Andrena Ingram: Is the Ribbon Enough?
"With all that I have been, and all that I am, I am not fake," writes Philadelphia-based pastor Rev. Andrena Ingram -- mother of three, addict in recovery, anti-stigma activist and longtime HIV survivor. "I speak my mind. I don't pretend to be 'holier than thou.' ... Heck, I may even let fly a few cuss words every now and then!"

Betsy Yung

Betsy Yung: My Evil Hitchhiker
"[HIV] hopped on and began his nasty business in about the year 2000," writes Betsy Yung, who describes herself as "just your average, hard-working, middle-aged lady living with AIDS." "He never showed himself until I was laying in the hospital on life support ... in July of 2010."


ScotCharles: Life Is a River
ScotCharles has had many successes and struggles since testing HIV positive in 1984 -- including battling AIDS-related neurological issues. ScotCharles describes his experiences with clarity and poignancy.

Bob Leahy

Bob Leahy: Northern Lights
HIV is "no picnic for many," says this banker turned AIDS activist and prolific, thoughtful writer. "For some of us though, the lucky ones, HIV has been a good thing. ... It's made us make something of our lives."


fogcityjohn: Outlier: My Unusual Journey With HIV
Fogcityjohn is a thoughtful, passionate author whose main themes are friendships, relationships, self-care and self-regard among gay men in the age of HIV/AIDS.

Rusti Miller-Hill

Rusti Miller-Hill: Advocacy Outside the Walls
Rusti began her HIV/AIDs advocacy in the early 1990s, as a peer educator in the prison where she herself was incarcerated. Now this mother, grandmother, wife and long-term survivor fights for incarcerated women's health from outside the walls.

Ed Perlmutter

Ed Perlmutter: An Accidental Activist
"I can't believe no one offered me an HIV test" was Ed's mantra following his HIV diagnosis -- after almost two years of unexplained illnesses, during which an HIV test was never proposed by his doctors. This experience turned Ed into a fierce activist for routine opt-out HIV testing.

Be sure to visit Blog Central for a complete listing of all of our incredible bloggers!

Tips and Advice

Word on the Street

Word on the Street: Advice on Aging Well With HIV
HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be. In fact, with proper treatment and adherence, more and more HIV-positive individuals are living long and healthy lives. Still, aging well can be a challenge, especially when dealing with HIV. So we asked HIV survivors and thrivers what their advice is for living a healthy, happy life with HIV well into your 50s and beyond.

Word on the Street

Positive and Past 50: Words of Wisdom to My Newly Diagnosed Self
Finding out you're HIV positive can be a scary and confusing experience. But with help and support, it gets better and easier. If only you knew back then the things you know now about HIV. But what if you had a chance to go back in time and advise yourself? We asked people living with HIV in their 50s and beyond, if they could meet themselves from when they were first diagnosed, what advice would they share about growing older with HIV?

This article was provided by TheBody.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Marilyn (Puerto Rico ) Tue., Apr. 7, 2015 at 6:42 pm UTC
I am 61. Living with HIV. since 1994. Dealing with HIV is not as easy as it was before. Now I have to deal with other conditions that keeps me in pain 24/7 and occupies my thoughts 24/7.
Reply to this comment

Comment by: flora k (blantyre) Mon., Dec. 24, 2012 at 6:17 am UTC
i ve learnt alot.
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