In March, Realize produced three short video vignettes on growing older with HIV which are now available on YouTube. The primary goal of the series is to bring to the foreground the faces and voices of older adults living with HIV.
There is a steadily growing number of older adults living with HIV in Canada, but their likenesses are often absent from HIV campaigns and their needs overlooked by funders, program planners and policy makers. Realize is working with older adults living with HIV to change that by raising the profile of this demographic within the HIV community, among care providers in the aging sector, and with the public at large.
In addition to making the videos publicly available online, Realize will use them as an educational tool to build empathy and increase knowledge among service providers in home care, long term care and seniors services who may never have worked with people aging with HIV before.
Mary, Glyn and John, who appear in the first three clips, have lived a combined total of more than 70 years with HIV. In under 15 minutes, their narratives capture better than any report the experiences that have shaped their own lives, many of which will resonate with other people aging with HIV. They describe memorable events and the ways that these have influenced their health, decision-making and emotional well-being.
Glyn expresses gratitude for unexpected time, describes his survival as an act of rebellion, and talks of his recent decision to return to work in his fifties. Mary reflects on the impact of depression, credits peer support for keeping her grounded, and looks forward to watching her children and grandchildren grow up. John is healthy and pushes back against assumptions that, as a person aging with HIV, he couldn’t be. He recognizes that many of his peers experience unstable health, is active in his community, and worries about his own ability to access aging-related care.
Much credit is due to these first three volunteers who so candidly told of their ups and downs in front of a camera -- not an easy thing to do.
The first three videos highlight some of the diverse identities, assets, needs and experiences of older people living with HIV, but we at Realize are aware that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Our goal is to continue to add to this library of video vignettes, capturing the thoughts, feelings and hopes of people aging with HIV from a variety of cultures, language groups, communities and lived experiences.