Watch CBS News

For long-term HIV survivors, the road to healing continues

Long-term HIV/AIDS survivors advocate for comprehensive care
Long-term HIV/AIDS survivors advocate for comprehensive care 02:55

CHICAGO (CBS) -- June 5th marks Long-Term Survivors Day, a day to honor long-term HIV survivors and raise awareness about their needs.

Two Chicago leaders have fought for decades to get care for those with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  

Caprice Carthans is recognized as a matriarch in Chicago's LGBTQ community. 

"I'm known as grandma or nana," she said.

Carhans, who grew up in Douglas Park on Chicago's West Side, has been advocating for those living with HIV for 40 years.

"I lost a lot of girlfriends who are no longer here, but the fighting still goes on," Carthans said. 

She advocates for those who were at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS epidemic before it even had a name.

Jeff Berry was diagnosed with HIV in 1989 when treatments were ineffective. 

He lost many friends as well. 

"I was scared out of my mind because I saw what it did to my friends," Berry said. "I thought, 'That's going to be me. I'm going to be dead in six months or two years.' "

However, he considers himself lucky to have had access to excellent healthcare and therapy in Chicago. 

He became an advocate, contributing to changing how drugs were developed and creating new systems of care.

By 2030, over 70% of people living with HIV will be over 50 years old.

Alongside physical impacts, long-term survivors often face increased anxiety and depression. 

Berry now serves as the Executive Director of The Reunion Project, hosting town halls nationwide to educate survivors about accessing comprehensive care as they age with the disease.

Their goal is for long-term survivors to age gracefully with dignity, ensuring that care is available and that people are there to support them.

"There are other people who are just like you and me who have the same struggles who have walked in the same path," Berry said. 

The Reunion Project began with town halls in San Francisco and has expanded to host events nationwide that resemble family reunions years later.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.