"Last Men Standing": The Forgotten Survivor of The AIDS Epidemic

"Thirty years ago we were supposed to die... but we are here."

Last Men Standing, a new documentary produced by the San Francisco Chronicle, takes a look at a group of men in the Bay Area who were diagnosed with HIV in the early days of the epidemic, but who have miraculously lived to tell their tales of survival—and loss.

"I’m the luckiest unlucky person in the world," says Peter Greene, who was diagnosed more than 30 years ago and has lost countless friends and lovers. "No one wants to be the last man standing."

More than half of those living with HIV/AIDS are 50 or older—Greene, though he still has a youthful spark, is 61.

In an accompanying article, writer Erin Allday illuminates their unique struggle.

For many, time stopped when they were diagnosed. They let go of futures they had no reason to believe would ever arrive. So they have no savings, no retirement money, no strategy for continuing to live in a city that’s increasingly unaffordable. Over the next decade or so, many will need financial aid when private disability benefits run out.

They also are suffering debilitating health problems, chronic illnesses brought on by a lifetime of living with AIDS and the toxic effects of its treatment. Many live in stark isolation, feeling abandoned and forgotten, even by the gay community they helped build here.

San Francisco, which acted urgently to battle AIDS as the epidemic took hold, today is ill-prepared to care for the disease’s long-term survivors. The city’s health and social services infrastructure never anticipated their needs, never made a plan to care for them. While doctors and public health officials focus on eradicating HIV/AIDS once and for all, precious few resources are aimed at helping those still standing.

Last Men Standing is screening at the Castro Theater on April 8.

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