HIV Long Term Survivors Awareness Day


Tim Alderman is a 41-year-long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS and a disability advocate. Photo: Supplied.

June 5 is HIV Long Term Survivors Awareness Day. Former Sydney resident Tim tells his story of surviving his diagnosis of the virus for decades longer than he was told he would live.

WORDS Tim Alderman

In early 1994, I had a huge 40th birthday party at the Stronghold Bar, in the basement of the Clock Hotel in Surry Hills. At the same time, I dumped the beautiful man who had been my boyfriend.

With declining health, I thought it would be my last big birthday party. I hoped I might get another year… maybe two.

I did not want my boyfriend to be lumbered with the care of a dying man. There were others better equipped to do that.

At that stage, I had no inkling that my guess would almost come to fruition, and that within those two years, HAART (Highly active combination antiretroviral therapy) would appear. It whisked me… literally… from the arms of death.

Battered and bruised from my encounter with AIDS, I was thrown unceremoniously back into society.

Even at that stage I was already, along with others who walked similar though divergent paths, a long term survivor. According to the HIV/AIDS statistics, I should have departed this life around 1987.

Four years would have been considered a good run, let alone thirteen! That I had survived that long… longer than most of my social circle…filled me with a strange mix of guilt, thanks, and hope. Having been given a second chance, nothing was going to be the same again! And it wasn’t!

Now at 70, way past the self-imposed 40 deadline, and as a 41-year long term survivor, the trepidation of those earlier days is way back in the dark past. Though I still get a jolt when I fully realise the implication of those two figures… 70… 41! It seems surreal.

I did grab the opportunity, and reinvented myself. Completing a university degree in writing, and two TAFE degrees in both cooking (chef) and fitness, have positively changed my life direction.

As a long term HIV survivor, I wear the badge with modest pride, having beaten the odds.

The other significant aspect of having been where I have, is the knowing that I have lived, and continue to, through the entirety of a pandemic.

What irks me is that, as a valuable historical resource, my knowledge is overlooked, pushed into the background of history.

COVID-19 was nasty… and still is… but was treated as though it was the worst thing to happen to mankind.

Yet only 40 years earlier, one of the worst pandemics of modern times had started to run its course, and over 40 million people have died as a result of it. We have short memories!

The annual HIV Long Term Survivors Awareness Day is on 5 June.

-Get in touch with Positive Life NSW for support from others living with HIV, on (02) 8357 8386, 1800 245 677 (freecall in NSW) or contact@positivelife.org.au

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