HIV Survivors and the ’16 Election

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“I’M THE LUCKIEST unlucky person in the world. No one wants to be the last man standing,” reflected Peter Greene, one of the eight long-term HIV survivors from the San Francisco Bay area, featured in the new documentary Last Men Standing. Greene personifies the ambiguous fate of many long-term HIV survivors. Having been voted Mr. Gay Colorado at age 22, Greene came to San Francisco in 1977 as part of the huge gay influx of that decade. He worked as a model, but in 1984 opened the Now Voyager travel agency in the Castro, catering to a mostly gay clientele. He tested positive for HIV in 1985. Determined to stay alive, he tried every possible drug and natural compound available, volunteering for many clinical trials. His fifteen-year romance with a married man would end with his partner’s AIDS-related death in 1994, the year he sold his interest in Now Voyager. He traveled and lived off the money he made, but having no income or savings left, eventually he could no longer afford to live in San Francisco. His friends helped him buy a mobile home in Palm Springs where he moved two years ago, though he never adjusted. He died there this past February of complications from hepatitis B, just as the documentary was being finished. Deserted and an outsider, he fulfilled his worst expectations of dying alone, far from the San Francisco home that he loved.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the first official reporting of the AIDS epidemic. On June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported cases of the rare lung infection, pneumocystis pneumonia, in five young gay men in LA. But 2016 is also

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