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Eight Characteristics of Long-Term Survivors of HIV/AIDS

By Terri Wilder, M.S.W.

July 6, 2009

Hey everybody. At the beginning of June I volunteered for THRIVE! -- a one-day educational and empowerment workshop in Atlanta for people living with HIV. I love doing this workshop and think that it is a valuable guide for people on living a long life with HIV.

At THRIVE! I do a workshop called "THRIVING with HIV." It is based on a 1987 research study conducted by Dr. George Solomon and Dr. Lydia Temoshok on how the mind and emotions impact the immune system. The purpose of their study was to understand how "long-term survivors" of HIV are different from people who follow the expected course of HIV disease. Through their research they were able to identify eight characteristics among long-term survivors of HIV.

The eight characteristics are:

  1. They are realistic and accept their diagnosis and do not take it as a death sentence.
  2. They have a fighting spirit and refuse to be helpless/hopeless.
  3. They have changed lifestyles.
  4. They are assertive and have the ability to get out of stressful and unproductive situations.
  5. They are tuned into their own psychological and physical needs -- and they take care of them.
  6. They are able to talk openly about their illness.
  7. They have a sense of personal responsibility for their health, and look at the treating health care provider as a collaborator.
  8. They are altruistically involved with other persons with HIV.

After presenting the workshop, I started thinking about my friends who have lived long with HIV. They are all unique long-term "thrivers" and I wondered if they had any of the characteristics that the researchers identified. I decided to sit down with a few of them and ask them, "Why do you think you have lived so long and well with HIV?" I talked with Chris, Eva, and George and was amazed at the similarities between their lives and the characteristics identified by the researchers.

I hope you enjoy this blog and are able to use the information as a springboard to not only create a quality life ... but a long life as well!


To contact Terri L. Wilder, MSW, email her at

Mark S. King provided video editing for this blog

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Working in the Frontlines of the HIV Pandemic Since 1989

Terri Wilder is a social worker who has worked in HIV for nearly two decades. She has written numerous articles about HIV, and has presented at HIV conferences around the United States. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in sociology at Georgia State University.

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Recent Posts:

Articles by Terri:

Are We Thinking About HIV and Older Adults?

Twenty-Seven Years of Women Living With HIV: Past, Present and Future (January 1, 2008)
To read PDF, click here

The Hidden Epidemic: White Women and HIV (September 2001)
From AIDS Survival Project

For the rest of Terri's articles, click here.

A Brief Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed by's bloggers are entirely their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of itself.