Wounded Warriors: Post-Traumatic Stress and Surviving the HIV/AIDS “War”

As John Voelcker writes a moving tribute about the death of AIDS activist, Spenser Cox, he draws some notable parallels between military veterans and survivors of HIV/AIDS. He speaks about the need for, and the barriers to, research related to post-traumatic stress and HIV/AIDS.

There are the hundreds of thousands of men and women who survived the worst of the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s and 1990s. They are the wounded warriors of our fight. And they have no such support — especially those who’ve lived with HIV for 15 years or more. Whether HIV-positive or negative, many of them suffer what would likely be defined as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The barriers to this research, notes Voelcker, came from multiple fronts- perhaps the most hurtful of these, was the indifference within our own community: not only from the research community, but also from the professional HIV/AIDS community.

We learned that wealthy, middle-aged gay men, even those with friends quietly succumbing to all manner of ills, didn’t want to hear it. Depression, drug addiction and destructive behaviors weren’t to be discussed, though all had a friend or two who’d vanished from polite life. And the professional AIDS establishment, with a few notable exceptions, was worse.

Please read article at this link: http://www.poz.com/articles/john_voelcker_spencer_cox_2676_23351.shtml

I really appreciated John’s article. And it leaves me wondering if the stigma surrounding mental health issues can sometimes be too much to add on to the other stigmas we live with- being positive, being gay, being Aboriginal… or just being different. And I wonder how we can begin to deal with this stigma around mental health? It seems to me that while this may be difficult, it is an incredibly worthy task.

Please share your thoughts and comments.


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Carlene Dingwall (BA, M.Ed, PhD Candidate)

Mental Health, Substance Use and HIV/HCV Initiative