“They may end up on 15 medications,” she said.
For sure, people would need to take their antiretroviral medications. After that, Justice questions whether taking more drugs would do more harm than good.
Older Americans living with HIV drew plenty of attention at the conference.
In the Global Village, which is open to the public, a project called “The Graying of AIDS” installed a temporary portrait studio to allow anyone 50 and older who is aging with HIV to pose for a photograph.
In the official conference area, organizers for the session “HIV and 50+” turned away dozens of people after the 1,000 seats were filled. When panelists asked for a show of hands of those older than 50, most of the hands shot up, including Kytle’s.
Kytle grew up in the South and moved to Washington in 1980. He thinks he was infected before 1979 but knew for sure he had the virus in 1984, when tests became available.
“I was one of the first people to be tested,” he said.
The early experimental drugs helped save his life. But they also led to a cascade of side effects. In addition to the hip surgery and facial injections, he also battles depression, a side effect from an earlier drug, he said.
Until about seven or eight years ago, his entire focus was staying alive, or trying to keep his partners alive. One died in 1986, the second in 2002. Then he was treated with the better, newer drugs. The virus has been undetectable in his bloodstream for four or five years.
And his outlook has changed.
“I stopped worrying about dying. I was able to think about other things. I felt relaxed enough to do that,” he said. He’s reading, something he hadn’t had the time or energy to do since the epidemic began 30 years ago.
Like other older Americans, he is facing his own mortality.
“It scares me,” he said. “I want to make the best use of my time to be as good a person as I can be.”
At this week’s conference, Kytle had thumbed through the 409-page program book and planned out which sessions to attend. Many dealt with homophobia and the continuing stigma surrounding the disease.
On Wednesday, he went to a panel discussion about the U.S. response to the global epidemic that featured Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who has been mentioned as a possible Republican vice presidential candidate.
The panel was interrupted several times by protesters.
There was no question-and-answer session, and as panelists hurried off the stage, Kytle stood up to make the point that homosexuality should not be criminalized. He shouted: “You can’t treat gay people as sick, criminal, second-class citizens and end this epidemic.”
“Homophobia kills,” he said.