An article by Dr Dana Rosenfeld, Director of the Keele Centre for Ageing Research reported more than 5 years ago on the affects that gay men who lived through the AIDS crisis and the trauma they endured and how it still stays with them today.
The article points out that older gay people were aged 50-70 in 1980, when HIV / AIDS emerged in the west, gay male ‘baby boomers’ (born 1946-1964) were aged 34-16 and how for them, the high number of AIDS deaths at the epidemic’s peak (1987-1996) shaped their lives, during the epidemic, throughout their life course, and into later years.
Statistics: AIDS killed 324,029 men and women in the USA between 1987 and 1998.
AIDS deaths were highest in major cities with thriving gay communities with a far higher proportion of gay male residents than the national average. In 1990, AIDS caused 61% of all deaths of men aged 25-44 (born 1946-1965) in San Francisco, 35% in New York, 51% in Ft. Lauderdale, 32% in Boston, 33% in Washington, DC, 39% in Seattle, 34% in Dallas, 38% in Atlanta, 43% in Miami, and 25% in Portland, Oregon. Older gay men, myself included who had lost friends and / or partners during the AIDS epidemic described cities becoming virtual ghost-towns.
The AIDS epidemic’s impacts on this generation of gay men, now aged 54-72, are still being explored. High mortality within tight gay networks have inspired the term ‘multiple loss syndrome’ to capture these deaths’ psychological toll.
Dr Rosenfled also found that ‘nearly all older gay men alive today, regardless of their HIV status or when they come out, have been impacted in some way’ by HIV / AIDS. Many of these men were (and continue to be) AIDS activists and / or carers, and have played, and continue to play, a central role in the LGBT community’s history.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, 79.3 million [55.9–110 million] people have been infected with the HIV virus and 36.3 million [27.2–47.8 million] people have died of HIV. Globally, 37.7 million [30.2–45.1 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2020.
It’s still not over.