HIV/AIDS Treatment Program hosts long-term survivors celebration

March 5, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News
The AIDS Quilt created March 3.

On March 3, the social work team for the HIV/AIDS Treatment Program (HATP) team hosted a celebration for long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS.

Having lost tens and even hundreds of friends and family members during the AIDS crisis (1980s and 90s) is a shared experience for many survivors, and as a result, many people live with residual grief, guilt and even PTSD.

Recognizing that events targeting long-term survivors often center on remembrance, HATP social work wanted to provide an opportunity for long-term survivors to celebrate survival, how far HIV care has come, and connect with others with similar experiences.

The event kicked off with dinner.

Amy Jacobs, LMSW, and Maya Rowland, LBSW, presented on the topic of “AIDS or AGE,” discussing the variables in health related to aging with HIV/AIDS. The topic is big in HIV care, as those with HIV/AIDS are living longer due to advancements in treatment.

Following the presentation, participants took part in facilitated conversation where patients were able to share stories of how living with HIV for many years impacted their lives. Patients were then given more time to connect with each other, and some took part in creating HATP’s own AIDS Quilt (modeled after The NAMES Project Foundation’s 1987 folk art), led by Charletta Hill, LMSW.

The event closed with a “letting go” ceremony (read by Lisa Taton-Murphy, LBSW) encouraging patients to release lingering feelings of guilt.

The Long-Term Survivors Celebration drew nearly 40 patients, supported by seven of HATP’s social work staff. Nearly all patients in attendance were long-term survivors of HIV, most having lived with the virus for 25-35 years.

Patients reflected that the best part of the event was “the community of survivors and stories,” sharing that it was meaningful to “share [their] early experiences of diagnosis.”

HATP social work hopes to provide opportunities like this again in the future.

For any questions about the event or HATP social work, please feel free to contact Maya Rowland, LBSW, at mayaro@med.umich.edu.

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