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HIV long-term survivor forum next week

by Liz Highleyman

Forum organizer Matt Sharp. Photo: Courtesy Facebook
Forum organizer Matt Sharp. Photo: Courtesy Facebook  

A community meeting Monday, July 17, will explore issues facing long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS. The forum, entitled "A Resilient Generation Looks Ahead," will discuss available resources and a new study of psilocybin-assisted group therapy.

"When I first heard that there was research planned for long-term survivors, I realized our community has come a long way since we began to mobilize four short years ago," forum organizer and long-term survivor Matt Sharp told the Bay Area Reporter. "We are the definition of resilience, and we should come together to celebrate our accomplishments and continue our work into the future."

Currently, more than 60 percent of people living with HIV in San Francisco are age 50 or older, and more than 20 percent are over age 60, according to the latest San Francisco Department of Public Health HIV Epidemiology Report. HIV-positive people are at higher risk for age-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, bone loss, and cognitive decline, and many are also dealing with isolation and the trauma of losing many friends and loved ones to AIDS.

Sharp will talk about his work with the Reunion Project, a series of summits for long-term survivors that have been held in cities across the country. Dr. Meredith Greene will discuss the Golden Compass program at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital's Ward 86, which offers a range of care and services for HIV-positive people age 50 and older.

Researchers will inform attendees about how to participate in two studies for long-term survivors and older people living with HIV that will start enrollment in August.

Dr. Brian Anderson of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry will discuss the Psilocybin for AIDS Survivors Study (PASS), a clinical trial looking at whether the active ingredient in "magic mushrooms" can facilitate group therapy for long-term survivors.

"PASS will assess the safety, feasibility, and preliminary efficacy of combining group psychotherapy with psilocybin to treat hopelessness, a lack of meaning in life, and prolonged grief in gay-identified men who are long-term AIDS survivors," Anderson told the B.A.R. "Based on the promising results of recent clinical trials of individual psychotherapy combined with psilocybin to treat depression and anxiety in patients with cancer, we think that when psilocybin is administered in a controlled clinical setting it can act as a psychotherapy catalyst, making talk therapy more effective and more fast-acting."

Rebecca Erenrich from ACRIA will talk about the Research on Older Adults with HIV (ROAH) 2.0 study, a follow-up to a previous ROAH survey on the needs and experiences of older people with HIV done over a decade ago. This study is being conducted in cities across the United States, including San Francisco.

Other speakers will include PrEP researcher Dr. Robert Grant from the UCSF Center for AIDS Research, National AIDS Memorial Grove board Chair Mike Shriver, and District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who is himself an HIV-positive long-term survivor.

"The forum will note progress we've made – Golden Compass is providing state-of-the-art health care at SFGH, we've got money in the budget for housing subsidies for seniors and people with disabilities, and money to address social isolation," Sheehy told the B.A.R. "But there are still enormous challenges and more work needs to be done. We will talk about what we've achieved, but also about what we still need to do."


A Resilient Generation Looks Ahead: A Community Forum for Long-Term Survivors of HIV and their Allies takes place July 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at UCSF HSW-300 Auditorium, 513 Parnassus Avenue in San Francisco.




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