June 2, 2014

This Thursday Is National HIV/AIDS Long Term Survivor Awareness Day

AIDS Survivor Conference will be held in San Francisco on June 5th 2014

AIDS SURVIVORS SUMMIT CONVENES ON JUNE 5, 2014, ON NATIONAL HIV/AIDS LONG-TERM SURVIVORS AWARENESS DAY IN SAN FRANCISCO


This Thursday June 5th, 2014 is National HIV/Aids Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day. Now say that five times fast. I’m just kidding!

In conjunction with National HIV/Aids Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day, the very first ever conference addressing this serious  issue is being held at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.

The Aids Survivor Summit is sponsored by Let’s Kick ASS. Let’s Kick ASS is a grassroots movement of long-term survivors, both positive and negative, honoring the unique and profound experience of living through the AIDS epidemic. They are dedicated to reclaiming their lives, ending isolation, and envisioning a future they never dreamed of.

ASS is an acronym for “Aids Survivor Syndrome” (ASS). According to the Let’s Kick ASS website, “Survivor syndrome” was coined by Dr. William G. Niederland to describe what the survivors of the death camps were going through 16 years after the holocaust ended.
When huge swaths of your family of choice and community die and you survive, and with 50,000 or more people in the US living with HIV, there are wildly varying responses to living after decades of preparing to die.
National HIV/AIDS Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day


Read about AIDS Survivor Syndrome and the San Francisco Summit by clicking “Read More”
What is AIDS Survivor Syndrome (ASS)?

It's what happens after the AIDS tsunami recedes. When the survivors of the crisis have had time to evaluate the loss, grief and fear of the tragedy that unfolded. It describes where we are now 30+ years into the AIDS epidemic. Life is going on but some of us are still are still traumatized.

ASS is a perfectly natural response to surviving a life-threatening trauma. In the case of the AIDS epidemic it was a crisis that lasted 20 years. It exists on a spectrum from very mild to severe.
AIDS Survivor Syndrome manifests in aimlessness, depression, broken relationships, substance abuse, high-risk behavior and, in its most extreme results in suicide.

The signs include: depression; personality changes; flashes of anger; survivor guilt; anxiety; emotional numbness; insomnia; social withdrawal and isolation; hopelessness; substance abuse; sexual risk-taking; and lack of future orientation. It includes elements of post-traumatic stress (PTS).

Any combination of those and other signs related to surviving when so many loved ones and community members died. It often takes years to manifest after life around the survivors has returned to normal for the people around them.

Let’s Kick ASS is a grassroots effort and our resources are limited but our reach has been dramatic,” says cofounder Tez Anderson. “We seem to be striking a vital nerve for the large Bay Area survivors population over 50.”

In the press release announcing their event, Let’s Kick ASS went into more depth about what they hope to accomplish at their summit.

More than 50% of people living with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco are already age 50 or older Let’s Kick ASS realizes that all providers are attempting to figure out how to best serve this cohort.

The day is not designed as a memorial or a somber event. We want to help survivors live the best lives they can now while we plan for making the next two decades the best they can be. We want the recall the resilience, strength and bravery the community exhibited. It was the worst of times that brought out the best of people. We fought the AIDS battles without preparation and while the losses were profound the stories of ordinary people doing amazing things are myriad. We exhibited strength we didn’t know we had.

But the battle is ongoing. 18 years after the dramatic death rate dropped in 1998 there has been growing evidence of AIDS survivor syndrome. Swaths of the community do not know about the horrors of the early decades, yes it was 20 years of illness, death and fear. It manifests in depression, anxiety, loss of future orientation, a lack of meaning and purpose. Some give up hope and end their lives rather than life with the losses and survivor guilt.

But healing wounded AIDS warriors is possible we need to come together and take care of those longest affected and let them know there is hope for a better future. These next twenty or thirty years are the final act for this generation. Instead of feeling invisible and forgotten long term survivors need to be acknowledged, congratulated for surviving and hailed as heroes of war they didn’t choose.

On June 5 we are all coming together to honor our experience by planning for our future. June 5 begins a new chapter in the story of AIDS Survivor Syndrome and Let’s Kick ASS. We begin optimizing survivors’ lives. It is time to focus on healing the trauma and planning for the next twenty years.

If you are interested in attending the summit, registration prior to the event is required. You can find the Eventbrite ticket information if you click here.


LINKS
National HIV/Aids Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day Website: Click Here
AIDS Survivor Summit Website: Click Here
Let’s Kick ASS Website: Click Here

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