June 26, 2019
In support of HIV/AIDS Awareness, Curry facilitates an HIV support group for survivors every Friday. Our LGBT Program Assistant, Manuel Raneda, shared his experience with facilitating the group.
Our group is called “Long Term Survivors”. The words HIV/AIDS may have been intentionally omitted from the name of the group to avoid the stigma that often goes with those terms. However, the members who attend regularly are all very open about their HIV status, and in a way, they are also very proud to have survived the terrible 80’s and 90’s when so many of their friends and partners died, and even when they came close to dying.
As the name indicates, this is a support group of survivors. There are about 4-6 regular members who meet every Friday to check in with each other and share what’s happening in their life with the rest of the group.
The subjects of the “check-ins” (as we call them) vary, but they tend to be a status update on their health issues, such as medical appointments, side effects of medications, and changes to their med regiments, or just an opportunity to vent about their daily challenges which are often present when aging with a chronic disease like HIV.
A reoccurring theme in this group is how to deal with the post traumatic effects of the AIDS epidemic, which they all experienced first hand and which caused the deaths of so many of their friends and partners. Most members of this group feel that since HIV is now a manageable medical condition, people tend to forget how much pain and fear they endured. While they are very grateful and feel very lucky to have barely survived, the experience has left them seriously scarred. They often used terms like “our holocaust” when referring to what they lived through.
Manuel Randea is one of the LGBTQ Program Assistants at Curry Senior Center. On Fridays, he facilitates the Long Term Survivors group every Friday and produces Curry’s podcast called “Revolting Seniors”. The podcast is almost like a public expression of the Long Term Survivors group.
Manuel also facilitates a men’s group called Lunch Bunch on Wednesdays. This is a larger group of Gay and Trans men who meet regularly to check in, share their stories and give and receive support from each other.
Every 5th Wednesday of the month, Manuel and staff organize a party or an outing for our LGBTQ clients. For example, this past year, Curry clients went to the Tenderloin Museum, the Walt Disney Museum, Muir Woods, among other places.
Finally, on Saturdays, Manuel and staff make sure clients have a safe space to come and hang out, watch a movie, eat popcorn, have a cup of coffee or tea, use the computer lab, etc.