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Dr. Perry N. Halkitis to Present “The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience” at November 14 Author Night

 Dr. Halkitis

NYAM Fellow Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH, will be presenting his book The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience at a NYAM Author Night event on November 14, 2013. The book, which examines the life experiences of gay men who are long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS, will be published by Oxford University Press in fall 2013.

For young gay men who came of age in the United States in the 1980s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was a formative experience in fear, hardship, and loss. Those who were diagnosed before 1996 suffered an exceptionally high rate of mortality, and the survivors—both the infected individuals and the people close to them—today constitute a “bravest generation” in American history.
 The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience examines the strategies for survival and coping employed by these HIV-positive gay men, who together constitute the first generation of long-term survivors of the disease. The stories and strategies detailed here, all used to combat the profound physical, emotional, and social challenges faced by those in the crosshairs of the AIDS epidemic, provide a gateway for understanding how individuals cope with chronic and life-threatening diseases.

Dr. Halkitis had several motivations for writing this book: “First, I wanted to create a historical document of the unique experiences that these men—the men of the AIDS Generation—lived through—people who lived through the darkest moments of the epidemic in the first two decades of AIDS,” he said. “Second, I wanted to demonstrate the resilience of my generation of gay men and move away from research that is based on deficit models that are too often evident in the literature.  In fact, somehow the men of the AIDS Generation survived and thrived. It would be simple to say it was pure luck that they remained healthy long enough for the development of antiviral therapies. But I believe what I learned from these stories is that there is something greater at work here. These men were able to attend and care for the whole selves—social, biological, and emotional selves—which empowered them to get through to 1996, the turning point of the epidemic, and which is demonstrative of resilience and not deficit. Third, the way that the men of the AIDS Generation managed the disease helps to inform how we can work with all people who are living with HIV and other people living with challenging chronic diseases.”

Dr. Halkitis looks forward to sharing his work with NYAM’s diverse audience of health professionals. “One of my goals for this book is to get it to the largest possible audience, including researchers, clinicians as well as non professional audiences,” he said. “It’s an important book that needs to be read by many different kinds of people. For those in the medical and health-related fields, understanding how this generation of men managed this disease has implications for how we treat AIDS in general, especially in younger generations. It demonstrates the importance of a biopsychosocial versus purely biomedical perspective. The way that these men have responded to the epidemic also is indicative of resilience. These effective strategies enacted at a time of little hope, in turn, inform practitioners on how they can work with their patients to help them manage HIV physically, emotionally, and socially. Such approaches are also applicable to other disease states.”

Dr. Halkitis is Professor of Applied Psychology and Public Health (Steinhardt School), and Population Health (Langone School of Medicine), Director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies, and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (Global Institute of Public Health) at New York University. He is also an affiliate of the Center for AIDS Research and Center for Drug Use and HIV Research also at NYU. Dr. Halkitis has been conducting HIV behavior research for the last 20 years, examining HIV in relation to other health problems.

A strength of Dr. Halkitis’ work is his ability to view it through multiple lenses—as a psychologist, educator, and researcher. “Being able to examine issues from all of these perspectives brings a richness and a holism—a much wider expansive way of understanding a medical problem such as HIV—than looking at it from a purely medical, psychological or behavioral lens,” he said. “I argue in the book that it’s how we need to think about the diseases—more than about the transmission of a virus.”

The November 14 event is free for NYAM Fellows and Members and $10 for non-Fellows/Members with registration.

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Posted on October 28, 2013

Gina Ravosa
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The New York Academy of Medicine
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