Reflections on the Achieving Together Long-Term Survivors Webinar

On June 5, 2020, in celebration of Long-Term HIV Survivors Day, Texas HIV Syndicate member Barry Waller led a panel discussion with three long-term survivors here in Texas. Participants came from across the state and had a combined experience of 88 years of living with HIV: Gary Cooper, Austin; Glenda Small, San Antonio; and Steven Vargas, Houston.

When I tested positive for 1985, there were no services or treatments for HIV – only fear, government indifference, and the threat of being rounded up and quarantined. Friends were dying all around me, friends far more accomplished in life than I had been.

-Gary Cooper

Long-Term HIV Survivors Day, started by Tez Anderson of Let’s Kick ASS (AIDS Survivor Syndrome), in 2014 recognizes the resilience and strength of long-term survivors of HIV. Tez chose June 5 because it is the anniversary of the first reporting of cases by the CDC of what would later be known as AIDS.

Long-term HIV survivors are defined as those who have been living with HIV for more than 20 years. Currently, there are almost 19,500 Texans who have been living with HIV for more than 20 years.  These long-term survivors represent two out of every ten Texans living with HIV.

Hopefully we can get together and do this thing right and become as one and realize that everyone is a human being, and everybody deserves to live, and everybody deserves to have a chance.

-Glenda Small

We want to celebrate the long-term survivors currently living in Texas.  Long-term HIV survivors bring so many strengths with them to the fight to end HIV.  Many also face a number of unique challenges, including medical care, medication, housing, social isolation, and more. 

I had to do my part. I had to step up and use what I learned to help other people. And so I did.

-Steven Vargas

You can watch the webinar here and listen as these three individuals share their unique stories, perspectives, and wisdom:  

Achieving Together values community—in person and online. When you comment on Achieving Together please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.