Kicking ASS: Meet Tez
It’s the story of his generation, he says—a generation that survived the devastating early decades of AIDS only to face the depression, anxiety, and social isolation of what Tez identifies as “AIDS survivor syndrome.”
Tez recently sat down for an interview for San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Status newsletter. The resulting article is a profile of resilience and courage. In the excerpt below, and in the full piece at sfaf.org, see how Tez took his own life crisis and forged it into a new purpose: Launching the grassroots group Let’s Kick ASS to help fellow long-term survivors reconnect with a powerful community—and build a future they never imagined.
Keep an eye on BETA for a new column, launching in the next few weeks, inspired by the work of Let’s Kick ASS and the long-term survivor community.
When Tez Anderson called a town hall meeting of long-term AIDS survivors on September 18, he didn’t know quite what to expect. What he got was a room packed with nearly 200 people—HIV positive and HIV negative, men and women—who had experienced first-hand both the tragedies and the bonds of the early epidemic.
And it felt like home.
“There were people there I hadn’t seen in 15 years,” Tez says. “I heard people saying to each other, ‘Oh my god, I haven’t seen you in so long!’ There were hugs. It felt like a family reunion. It was really very moving to see people wanting to connect again.”
Lack of connection, withdrawal, social isolation: All are aspects of what Tez calls “AIDS survivor syndrome.” Other common symptoms are depression, anxiety, and feelings of “survivor guilt.” In launching the new grassroots group Let’s Kick ASS, Tez hopes to reconnect and re-energize people who survived the epidemic’s devastating early days, only to feel their lives had stalled.
For some, those first decades of AIDS were simultaneously tragic and heroic, with activists radically changing medical and research institutions from the ground up and individuals uniting to support each other and care for their dying lovers and friends. “We had a community that came together and took care of our own when no one else would do it,” says Tez. “That is worth all kinds of Purple Hearts.”
But with the advent of “drug cocktails” that at last slowed the disease’s progress, people like Tez suddenly found themselves with unexpected time on their hands, facing an uncertain future….
Want to learn more about Let’s Kick ASS? Visit the group online at letskickass.org.