The Positive Side

Summer 2011 

Brian R. (Summer 2007)

Age: 65+
Living with HIV for 22½ years
CD4 count: 600+
Viral load: undetectable

“A retired nonprofit arts administrator who is still active in local ASO community.”

How would you describe your health?
Pretty good.

Are you experiencing any specific issues around HIV or your treatment?
Not really. In general, because I live in a large urban centre and have access to good medical facilities, I don’t really have any major health issues related to HIV/AIDS. I’m dealing more with the other things, like being 65+. You become part of the invisible aging population. In the gay community, you’re old at 40. And L’Oreal doesn’t work on men so much!

In the cover story you appeared in for the Summer 2007 issue, you talked about the financial stresses of growing older with HIV. Have things gotten better or worse for you since then?
I am still living below the poverty level. Twenty years ago, people like me who are longtime survivors had to quit our jobs, go on disability and get our CPP (Canadian Pension Plan) early. We missed out on accumulating a pension where we were working, so 20 years later, you’re an old fart living on government pensions and occasional part-time work. But inflation, less coverage (such as no dental plan) and other unexpected expenses can easily eat up any savings. If you are living in a larger community or city, there are more services to guide and help in times of need. But, of course, the struggle continues all over Canada to improve services as we survive and live longer.

Have you gone through any big changes since appearing on the cover in 2007?
Just before I was on the cover, I had open-heart bypass surgery. Now, a few years later, I am almost a new person. It has been like getting 10 years back. Since the surgery and rehab, I have increased energy and drive, and a new outlook and sense of purpose. I have become very active at my local Y, taking classes, courses and workshops — and now teaching and leading Stretch and Strength classes. At this point, my HIV status is only one aspect of my life.

In one word, describe this moment in AIDS.

In 10 years…
I see myself celebrating 32 years of HIV-positive living, still active.

What song is the soundtrack of your life?
“With a Little Help from my Friends” by The Beatles.