Yesterday I finally took my book on the road. My dear colleague and friend Bianca Wilson, a policy scholar, arranged for me to be part of the Williams Institute/UCLA Panel at the West Hollywood Bookfair.
The session was well attended, in part by men who themselves are members of the AIDS Generation. Like those in the book, they too are surviving and thriving but also facing the many complications associated with aging and a life with HIV.
My colleague Kurt Organista, who works with Latino populations, also was on the panel; and together we forged a conversation about how structural inequalities and impediments undermine health. This is true for gay men, for those with limited economic means, for racial and ethnic minorities. So polices and laws that protect gay men and other groups will certainly have a beneficial effect.
Also much time was spent talking about resilience. This word is used too often and loosely by some of my colleagues. It is more than simply surviving AIDS but rather a deep-rooted psychological process that is both innate and environmentally influenced. The men of the AIDS Generation are resilient but not simply because they have survived but because of the many processes they enacted to survive as well as the manners in which they developed these processes. To this end, here is a snippet from Chapter 6.
As part of our ongoing conversation, I asked the men of the AIDS
Generation to describe how they make meaning of the construct of resilience.
Most often they described resilience in relation to their own personal
challenges managing HIV. This included the stress created by the disease
and the steps they enacted to manage the health crises that emerged over
the course of their adult lives. Richard expressed it as follows in relation to
his near-death experience prior to 1996:
Resilience means making the choice, after months and months of vomiting,
diarrhea, and being in pain and finally crawling back out of the hole, only to
find yourself once again attacked and struck down even further, to take the
step-by-step push to get back on top, even though you know that, physically,
the top of the mountain is not possible. But you strive on.