‘It was wartime’: 3 survivors of the AIDS epidemic share the hard lessons on love and resiliency they learned in the ’80s that are helping them make it through the coronavirus crisis

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Joey Terrill

Survivors of the HIV/AIDs epidemic share three life-saving lessons for coping with COVID-19.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic changed American culture. Since 1981, 75 million people have had the HIV virus and approximately 32 million have died.
Everything from practicing compassion to developing tolerance can help you get through this tough time.
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From overwhelmed hospital systems to mass panic and virus-related stigma, the issues arising from COVID-19 have changed life permanently. Experts have touted this crisis as the “new normal” as a result.

But, for older generations of LGBTQ people, these issues are all too familiar.

Joey Terrill is the director of community partnerships at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a non-profit offering AIDS prevention and patient advocacy services in Los Angeles, California.

Terrill, 64, told Business Insider that LGBTQ seniors who survived the AIDS epidemic have the life experience needed for battling COVID-19.

“I felt like when AIDs hit, it was war. It was wartime and I had to step up and be a soldier in that war, and I’m still a soldier to this day,” Terrill said.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic not only claimed millions of lives, but drastically changed public life. Since 1981, 75 million people have had the HIV virus and approximately 32 million have died. Although the coronavirus pandemic has killed almost 90,000 people in the US, the death toll of HIV/AIDs is still more far-reaching, Business Insider reported.

And coronavirus is not stigmatized in the same manner as AIDS. People living with HIV still experience discrimination like being denied health services or isolation from their families, according to the CDC. This stigma comes from a fear of HIV. Nearly one in every eight people living with HIV have been denied health care because of discrimination, shows a 2017 report from the global HIV advocacy organization UNAIDs.

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The LGBTQ seniors interviewed below experienced this firsthand — they have all dedicated their careers, either in public health or the arts, to fighting HIV stigma.

Business Insider asked them to reflect on the lessons they learned from that era. Here’s what helped them survive.

1. Learn to have compassion for others

One of the easiest ways to support someone through a health crisis is through acts of service.

Davidson Garrett, 67, a poet and former taxi driver, said that, during the AIDS epidemic, many in the queer community were linked to someone living with HIV/AIDS. He recalled rushing his friends who were HIV positive to the hospital and running errands for them. Garrett even helped fulfill his friend’s last wish to listen to opera while on his death bed.

“He could barely move in his hospital bed, but he wanted me to be near him to listen to opera cause that’s what we did together,” Garrett said. “What I did learn from the AIDS crisis is that we all can be a part of the solution.”

“I certainly don’t have a cure for HIV,” he added. “I’m not a …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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