Tag Archives: ageing

Getting On With It! A 37 Year Retrospective of Life with HIV/AIDS (UPDATED)

The challenge of writing about 37 years of living with HIV/AIDS isn’t so much to write tomes about what actually was witnessed over that period. That is easy to do, and I could ramble on forever about it. The challenge lies in being objective and succinct, to tone down the schmaltz and sentimentality and cut to the chase. Not as easy as one may think, as these were the most challenging, relentlessly ruthless and heartbreaking years of my life. But if survival is the gauge of ones strength and tenacity, then I have come out at this end of it with flying colours. Indeed, the cup is half full!

The author at 65

So what was it really like in 1982 to be reading snippets in our local gay press about this mysterious illness in The States that seemed to be targeting gay men who frequented the saunas, and quickly killing them? Well, cynicism and disbelief to start with, and the surety that within a short period of time they would find an antibiotic to clear up yet another STD. Soon the snippets were to become columns, then pages as the mysterious and deadly illness leapt from the shores of America and found its way here.

Our response was mixed. The first recorded case of HIV at home was 1982, and the first death in 1983. We had our usual ratbags who yelled and screamed about God’s vengeance on the evil, sick and perverted gay lifestyle (obviously a different God to the compassionate, all-forgiving one that I had heard about), the advocates of hate who demanded quarantine for all infected persons, and those who either quietly or vocally wished that we would all die or just go away. Not that easy folks!

Thankfully, common sense prevailed and both the government and the grassroots gay community combined to put both AIDS Councils and NGO programs in place. Our quick response was instrumental in Australia always being at the forefront of HIV/AIDS care. Within 2 years every state had an AIDS Council under the national umbrella of NAPWA (National Association of People with AIDS), and the formation of support organisations such as The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation (named after the first person to die from AIDS in Australia), Community Support Network (CSN) and Ankali. Without these organisations life would have been grim for those infected. In 1985 testing was introduced. It was a bit of a strange affair in the early days. Due to hysteria and discrimination no one wanted their personal details on a database, so you chose a name, and Albion Street Centre issued you with a number that then became your ID. You had a blood test, and waited for two weeks – talk about high anxiety – to get your result. I had a mystery illness in 1982, a flu-type illness that wasn’t the flu, and already suspected that I had sero-converted and was going to come up HIV+. I was right. Counseling? Oh yeah, we had a lot of that back then. “You’ve got about 2 years to live”. Shrug shoulders “Okay”. And off we went knowing the inevitable was rapidly approaching, and it was time to PARTY!!! What else could you do?

However there were horror stories. The disgusting treatment of young Eve Van Grafhorst is something for all Australians to be ashamed of. Born in 1982, she was infected with HIV via a blood transfusion. When she attempted to enrol in her Kincumber pre-school in 1985, parents threatened to withdraw their children due to the (supposed) risk of infection. The family was literally hunted out of town, and forced to leave the country and go to NZ. I will never forget the sight of this poor, frail girl on her way to the airport. I, like many others, was horrified that this could happen in Australia. Thankfully, her NZ experience was quite the opposite, and she lived a relatively normal life until her death in 1993 at 11 years of age. Her parents received a letter from Lady Di praising her courage.

Eve van Grafhorst was diagnosed with HIV and hounded out of Australia, but her legacy endures

Meanwhile, the Australian nightmare was well and truly hitting home. My first close friend, Andrew Todd, died in 1986. At that time there was no dedicated AIDS ward, and Andrew was shifted between wards as beds were needed for other cases. He died on Boxing Day in A&E (called St Christopher’s ward, due to people usually just “travelling” through it on their way to a dedicated ward) at St, Vincent’s Hospital In Darlinghurst. It is interesting to note here that the Sisters of Charity, who founded this hospital, put the hospital at the centre of HIV care very early in the epidemic, and also provided palliative dare through the attached a Sacred Heart Hospice. I had the sad duty of ringing all my friends at a party to tell them the sad news. Party pooper recognition acknowledged! Ward 17 at St Vincent’s eventually became the dedicated AIDS ward, and for the next 10 years was never empty. Other hospitals such as Westmead hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons; full contamination clothing for those working with HIV people, rooms not being cleaned, meals left outside doors. Even the poor old mosquito copped a hiding as a means of contamination, along with toothbrushes, glasses, cutlery and crockery. An advertising campaign featuring the Grim Reaper bowling down poor people created an apocalyptic vision of HIV that scared the life out of everyone. It was quickly withdrawn. In the interim, my 2 years became 4, which became 6 followed by 8. My life became a haze of alcohol and cigarettes, not shared alone.

In the 80’s I held a lot of parties with anywhere from 40- 60 friends attending. By 1996, if I had tried to hold a party I would have been lucky to have dug up 10 friends to attend. In the blink of an eye my social circle was effectively wiped off the face of the earth. Hospitals, hospices, funerals and wakes became the dreaded regular events. It was death on a relentless and unforgiving scale. The Quilt Project became the focus of our sorrow, and it’s regular unfoldings and name readings were tear-filled times of remembrance and reminiscence, along with the yearly Candlelight Rally. I attended until I became so empty that I could no longer bear it. I submitted my names but no longer attended. In the early 90’s four friends died close together – two from AIDS, one a heart attack and one cancer. This was a particularly heavy blow as two of these friends had been regular “gutter drag” partners, and that part of my life effectively ended. In a perverse way, it seemed strange that the Big A wasn’t the only thing stalking our lives.

Ready to do a quilt unfolding at the Government Pavilion, Sydney Showgrounds, around 1991. From left Peter McCarthy, Peter Gilmore, Bevan Lambert, Steve Thompson, Tim Alderman.

Despite its reputation for being human Ratsac (the Concorde Study in France named it such, after conducting an unethical trial; turns out they were correct!) I started taking AZT when my CD4 count started to take a dive. Hard work, long hours, heavy drinking, chain smoking, a shit diet and emotional turmoil didn’t help. Pub culture became lifestyle. Did several drug trials – D4T, which was sort of successful, though the same class of drug as AZT. Also p24 VLP (Very Light Protein) which proposed that stimulating the p24 antigen may help control HIV. Total waste of my time. It did nothing. We started alternating drugs – 6 months on AZT, 6 on D4T, 6 on DDI, 6 on DDC. Perversely it seemed to keep the wolf from the door. Dosage was huge. Everyone on it ended up with kidney problems and peripheral neuropathy. Prophylactics added to the drug burden. In the meantime there was no HIV dental service and our teeth rotted or fell out due to bouts of candida. I left work in 1993 after being seriously knocked around by viral pneumonia which should have killed me…but didn’t.

Like many, I went on every drug or alternative trial that came my way. There are those who have described us guinea pigs as brave, or “heroes”, but we certainly didn’t feel like that at the time, despite it being a very selfless act. The thinking at such a desperate time was that…well, if it works for me, the benefit will flow onto everyone else! But there were, in the early days at least, more failures than successes. D4T:FAILURE…caused anaemia; P24-VLP:FAILURE…was hoped it would boost the p24 antigen – it did nothing: Goat Serum:FAILURE…though I did get a very scary skin rash from it; Vitrasert Implants: FAILURE…though due more to HAART eradicating the scourge of CMV retinitis. Were intended to leach Ganciclovir into the eye over a 9 month period, thus eliminating the need to have it injected into the eye regularly. Two minor operations to insert them, with an initial estimate of a 4% chance of developing cataracts. Turned out to be a 100% chance, thus further operations to remove the cataracts. Fun, baby!

I was shuffled onto the pension, and given rent subsidised housing by DOH (Department of Housing). The subsidy seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, weren’t we all eventually going to be killed by the Big H, so no one would be on it for that long? Famous last words! My alcohol consumption and chain smoking increased, if that was possible! Was losing weight at an alarming rate, and naturally no one noticed because I took to wearing baggy clothes to disguise it. Nothing quite like being delusional. Moved from Darlinghurst to Bondi. Nothing like moving away from the scene to help your health…not! Collapsed in the street, and admitted to St Vincent’s not with PCP as suspected but a collapsed lung. Two weeks later and a change of female GP’s saw me back in the doctor’s rooms while she read my hospital discharge report. Had they tested me for CMV retinitis? No! Was I having trouble with my vision? Yes, but I do wear glasses. Guess what? We’re sending you for a little holiday at Prince Henry Hospital (now closed). I was a little bit sick. Chronic CMV retinitis, chronic candida, chronic anemia, had 10 CD4 cells and weighed 48 kgs. Mmm, prognosis was not good. Well, it had been a good life. I was certainly joining a band of party people. But no! Life hadn’t finished with me yet. Protease Inhibitors had come along at an auspicious time, and within a fortnight I had been stolen from the arms of death. Mind you, that fortnight had been no picnic. Ganciclovir injections into the eye, Deca-Durabolin injections to help put weight back on, blood transfusions, and enough finger prick blood readings to last me the rest of my life. And the problems had just started for this return-to-lifer. Not dying when you are supposed to really fucks up your head space.

So started the next round of therapies. Peer Support groups; counselors; Caleo (Greek word which means “To Stick”, a treatment management group who help you maintain the impetus to take the billion pills a day (I was taking over 360 pills a week – anti-retrovirals, prophylactics, and pills to control side effects – at one stage) we were taking); clinics; dental care (now up and running); volunteer work (to keep one sane). What started out as volunteer work at the then PLWHA (NSW) Inc (now Positive Life) turned into paid employment as a research assistant. I started writing for “Talkabout” magazine, joined the Positive Speakers Bureau, and learnt to use a computer. A couple of stints back in full-time employment made me realise that big changes needed to be made with my life. By this time my health was pretty well back together. A couple of nights out pushed home just how few people I knew, however did lead to meeting my current (now ex) partner. A brief encounter with Indinivir sludge in my kidneys (which involved having a stent inserted then removed) also made me aware that for HIV+ people the unexpected can happen at any time. Yet another change of doctor. Self-empowerment had become an important issue, and I wanted a say in my health management, as distinct from being dictated to. Big changes were about to happen.

In 2000 David and I did a big (and expensive) holiday to the Red Centre. It was an amazing experience. Before leaving Sydney I had applied to the University of Technology in Sydney to do my degree in writing. Shortly after arriving back home I was informed that I had been accepted. Ah, the advantages of mature age AND disability. So spent three years doing my Graduate Certificate in Writing, was office- bearer for the Special Needs Collective…in fact I WAS the Special Needs Collective, and discovered I hated having to deal with the moronic “radicals” who called themselves the Student Association and did nothing except rant and rave, and waste student money. I was glad to leave uni. Towards the end of 2004 I decided to get my chef’s credentials from East Sydney TAFE, and crammed a 12-month course into 6 months. As much as I hated uni, I really loved TAFE and found it more grassroots and honest. David and I started Alderman Catering, a top-end catering business though it only lasted about 2 years as I found it very exhausting. I then sort of returned to my retail roots by opening a web site called Alderman Providore to sell Australian made gourmet grocery items. The site proved successful, and within 4 years I was opening my second site, this time specialising in tea, coffee and chocolate products. I got involved in a trial using Goat’s Serum to treat HIV, but again another waste of time. I did manage to get a skin rash from it, and managed to score a $1,000 for participating. In late 2009 the GFC hit, and online shopping took a major hit. After a disastrous Christmas that left me severely out if pocket, I decided to sell the business and put it behind me.

More eye problems followed, this time involving my blind eye. Back to the regular rounds at the Sydney Eye Hospital, and an injection of Avastin (a cancer drug that reduces blood flow) into the blind eye to stop it creating new blood supplies to an eye that couldn’t see. By this time, the interior of the bad eye was collapsing, and it took on an unnatural colour. Before this I hadn’t looked blind. Now I did! Scary how anyone you talk to can pick an anomaly – and stare at it while talking.

The next step, which sort of brings us up to date (this was 2011), was a major move. Plans to move north had been on the agenda for 10 years – in 2011 it finally happened, though we did jump the border which wasn’t in the original plan. No sooner were we there than my retina detached (I had been warned to eventually expect this, due to the amount of CMV scar tissue in the eye) in my one seeing eye…or rather was pushed off by all the scar tissue present from my original CMV infection. An emergency operation to scrape down the scar tissue, and replace the retina and fluid (called a vitrectomy) has seen my sight degenerate even further and I am now the proud owner of a white cane curtesy of Guide Dogs Queensland. It has become obvious that our two Jack Russell’s are not, despite their best of intentions, good seeing-eye dogs. I can see, though very poorly. A lot of life is a blur these days.

However, I am not going to complain. I have always enjoyed a challenge, and this presents yet another one. I gave up smoking 23 years ago, and drink only lightly and socially these days. I adopted a healthy diet and exercise program 10 years ago when I started getting unattractively over-weight and inactive.I have turned my life around by adopting this course of action. In 2013 I attended Southbank Institute of Technology in Brisbane and obtained my Certificate III in Fitness. I hoped this would lead on to becoming a Personal Trainer for mature-age and disabled people both individually and in conjunction with my local gyms. I was almost 60 by the time I finished. Just in time for the next stage of my life.

In 2014 David and I called an end to our 16 year relationship. It had run its course, and with a 14-year age gap…I’m the older…we were both at different stages of our lives. It was amicable, and we are still friends. However, it was the start of a year from hell. A disastrous 60th birthday followed, them an attack of shingles that was the worst Royal Brisbane Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Unit had ever seen, leading to an infection in the blisters that landed me in hospital with blood poisoning, followed by two weeks with a portable drip through their Hospital In The Home initiative (Neuralgia and numbness from this are still a problem 5 years down the line). Then our first rescue dog, Ampy, died. I was also faced with some serious decisions. With the parting of our ways, I could no longer afford to live in the house we were in being on a pension, and of the options open to me, returning to Sydney to move in with an ex from the 80s was the only viable one. I also made a nerve-wracking decision to have my blind eye removed, and replaced with a prosthetic. After years of ongoing problems with it, was time it came to an end, and the operation occurred in early 2015 just prior to my other dog, Benji, and myself returning to Sydney.

I stayed in Sydney only for as long as I needed to be there. I hated it! A cold, over-populated, rude city. Within 12-months, we…I include my housemate, who also came with me…moved to the Central Coast, where life is quiet, and more civilised. Life goes on…I’ve lived long enough now to start seeing the truth finally being told about many aspects of HIV – the high toxicity and ongoing problems caused by AZT, exploitation by Big Pharma, misuse of funding, unresearched and often inaccurate advice on therapies and treatments, the rushing through of many treatments that proved detrimental to those who took them. It’s time to clear the air, and take the sentimentality out of an often rose-coloured glasses view of the epidemic.

37 years eh! OMG where have those years gone? Despite all the discrimination, stress, anxiety, illness, deaths, survivor guilt and despair, there have been moments of great introspection, illumination, strength and enlightenment. That over-used word “empowerment” springs to mind and that is perhaps the one word that sums all those years up. Victim? No way! Survivor? Not in my words! And I have never been one to wallow in self pity. You just need to grab life by the balls, and get on with it. I trust that is what I have done.

Tim Alderman 2019

Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe: Being 60!

WTF! Since when did turning 60 move me into the world of the addled dolts! I look in the mirror and see a guy who has aged, for sure, but not so that I can see a retirement in my near future. In fact, as far as a mature aged guy goes, I don’t look all that bad at all! I still have all my hair, it is still primarily black, body is gym-toned and looking a bit bulked up, not many wrinkles to speak of, grooms well, and dresses in trendy clothing though for my age. So why is it that so many think I’m an idiot!

Don’t get me wrong! This attitude that I am a gullible dolt doesn’t come from friends and acquaintances. It is the sole territory of young shitheads on sex sites! Excuse me while I B-Pay some funds to Russia so that yet ANOTHER personal trainer can escape his life of misery and deprivation there, and join us in the land of fucking eternal sunshine and imbecility!

Has happened to me four times in the period of one week! Four 20-somethings that think grandpa Timmy is the National Treasury, and either a free ride to the Promised Land, or a subject of ridicule! Now…I know all 60-year-olds aren’t computer and internet savvy…but this one is! I’ve survived enough Nigerian millions which are possibly still on there way, and had enough relatives that I knew nothing about – that lot didn’t know my hobby.. is genealogy – dying and leaving me zillions…just forward us your banking details and we’ll get this money to you right away…to know when someone is taking the piss!

Funny how they often trip themselves up! This one on Saturday night appeared on Grindr. There was a chat window with a picture posted in it of a very cute 20-something.,no profile! Thought that was very odd but proceeded with chat anyway. Mentioned he was visiting and going out…a bit further down said he was arriving on Sunday. The usual dirty talk…said ye was staying at McDowell…was willing to supply condoms and travel here…would message me on Monday…knew he wouldn’t and he didn’t! But I’m not sure what it was all about. He got no information off me, no personal stuff like address…maybe he worked out I’m poor snd just gave up lol.

Then you have the guts from India looking for hubbies in a little hit too much of a rush…and if you respond suddenly there is a rush of them! And always in too much of a hurry to move on to Skype.

The Asian guys who respond to profiles 60-seconds after all t goes up…without even reading it, and always between 20 and 24.

The “Blow ‘n Go” guys nearly always in their early 20s…and on Grindr!

Guys who don’t read your profile, so miss the information about raw sex!

Or sites like BBRTS which are a total waste of time if you are over 60! Plenty of ‘oinks’ but no bloody subsequent action…though a good site for excuses as to why none!

Hey guys…would it shock you to find out I’m still sexually active! I’m not dead! I.m not wrinkly and saggy! I don’t smell of old person! I don’t really want sex…or scams…or rip-offs…from people a third my age!

Get a life, guys. Don’t waste my time…it’s as precious as yours. Read my fucking profile and respond to what I want..las I do to yours!

I’m not an imbecile nor a dolt!

Don’t treat me as one!

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2014



Getting older is one of those things that seems to have caught up with me very quickly. One minute I was 40, then 50 and now at 57 rapidly approaching 60. I’m not complaining. I’ve survived AIDS (with a couple of disabilities but nothing to hold me back), and when all is said and done I am really enjoying the experience of getting older, the quietening down of life and the intuitiveness that seems to come with it. HIV is no longer something I feel concerned about – in fact, it is very much a backwater in my life. Everything is under control, and has been for a long time, so as far as I am concerned it is no longer an issue. It is just something that is, and is so integrated into my life that it is not a seperate issue.

However, there are aspects of ageing that I have not liked. I may be approaching 60 but there is much about the contemporary world that I love – like the latest music (and I still collect dance music) and technology and all the wonders it brings for starteres. I still like to dress well (though I try to avoid the mutton dressed as lamb scenario), I still groom myself well and like the fact that despite my age I can still look pretty good when I hit the streets. However, 12 months ago I started to notice things about my body that were in stark contrast to what I liked to think and feel about myself. Having been blessed with good genes that have allowed me to keep all my hair (most of it in its original black shade) and for most of my life a slim profile I was disconcerted to find that gravity was finally having its wicked way and changing – for the worst – my body shape. I was becoming flabby with a very discernable spare tire waistline, flabby tits, mishapen arse and bad posture. I was actually starting to look so “old” that it was starting to depress me and really knocked my self-esteem around. It also didn’t fit in with how I dressed and groomed myself and I was really aware of the fact that I wouldn’t go out in anything that clung to me, or in anyway showed off my body shape. To make matters worse, I started to go up in clothing sizes (from SM to M in shirts, and from 32” trousers and shorts to 34”. I wasn’t happy! Other nasty things that were happening were finding myself sitting on the edge of the bed to put on trousers and shorts, having my partner comment on how bad my posture was getting (that was a real “shit – is it” moment), and the doctor had started me on cholesterol meds, which was an additional pill that I really wasn’t happy about having to take.

Like others that I know, when I lived in the Eastern Suburbs in the 80’s and 90’s, I made a decision (despite the fashion for toned bodies at the time) to avoid going to the gym. They were places full of gay guys who were there not to get fit but to mould themselves into an image of what it was preceived that gay men looked like. They posed, preened, plucked, depilated and fake-tanned, and when they went oiut to the bars, only ever hung around with, and picked up, guys who looked like themselves. I made sure I hung around with the scrawny brigade so as not to feel out of place. It was a form of body fascism that I disliked then, and still do. However, a move to the outer edges of the Inner West brought about a change in my thinking and perceptions. With the body rapidly getting out of shape, with my self-esteem taking a beating, and with the prospect of 60 looming (and a potentially rickity ride into an unhealthy mature years) it was time to do something about it, so it was off to the gym in Marrickville. The fact that I added the word ‘gym’ to my vocabulary was a good start.

I loved – and still do – the gym, which sort of came as a bit oif a shock to me. From the word go I was made to feel comfortable, and a lot of the fallacies that I attributed to going to the gym were dispelled. To start with, no one else cares about what you are doing, and nobody is actually watching and assessing you (except yourself). Everyone else is too busy doing their own thing, and are too much in their own world to care about what you are up to. I had an initial assessment with a personal trainer who in no way criticised how I
looked, but she did help me to set some goals – the major ones being that I wanted to get fit, I wanted to loose excess fat, generally tighten my whole body up, fix my posture and inprove my general health. I wanted to reclaim my hips and arse, both of which had long ago disappeared. In other words, I had a determination to transform myself. And at 72kg, I wanted to do all this without losing weight, as weight wasn’t the problem. The other encouraging thing I found about just going to a local gym was the number of other mature aged men and women who were there, and really working hard and doing their best to get fit and healthy. There is now a few older role models around to encourage us to do something about being fit and older. Actors like Rob Lowe (God, how hot is that man), Rick Springfield (who despite his demons looks fabulous for someone in his 60’s), and dare I say it – Tony Abbott (hate his politics but admire him for his committment to fitness) – have given us a new way of looking at ourselves as we get older.

So, having set goals, and having been given a regime to follow, it was off to the beginners studio for a 10 week starters program. The first week…I suffered. Every muscle ached, and I looked at the piss-weak weights I was starting with, and wondering if I was ever going to be able to do things at the heavier end. And don’t think it doesn’t get tedious! Doing the same routines over and over again can get very boring. I started to vary things myself, made a lot of changes to what had been set out for me and found that helped me to get through the boredom barrier. I started going three days a week, for 1 hour each visit. And I bloody worked hard! Nothing was going to deter me from my goals. Within 7 weeks of starting, the miracles began. I was using a lot of resistance equipment, and found that the weights started to increase. The spare tire didn’t just reduce – it disappeared. I noticed my pecs tightening up and starting to show a firm profile, muscles appeared in my arms. My energy levels also increased, as did my flexibilty. My self-esteem started to go through the roof, and in turn this promted me to work harder, to really start to challenge myself. At the end of the 10 weeks, I looked fantastic. I couldn’t believe just how different I looked and felt. It was noticeable at the gym how regular I was and how hard I worked, and the gym staff gave me a lot of encouragement.

So, after the 10 weeks in the beginners studio it was time for another assessment, and a harder program of work, starting in what I jokingly called “the big boys room” where all the weights and serious resistence equipment are. I continued to flog myself three days a week (still for a total of three hours a week), and the changes continued. I was still having some problems getting a flat stomach (I wasn’t after a six-pack…I could probably get one but at my age it would be a constant battle to maintain it) so the tweaking of our diet at home started. Now, I’m sure everyone knows from my last column that I cook, so doing a diet tweak wasn’t a big issue as I knew that I had the recipes to over-ride any chance of blandness or boredom. I should point out that I don’t approve of diets, especially fad ones, but I do believe that you can create a healthy diet for yourself without going to extremes, without adding supplements, and without cutting out carbs and proteins. Your body needs these things to function properly – it is all a matter of proportion and balance. We cut out a lot of fatty foods, a lot of sugar (I have a terrible sweet tooth so this wasn’t easy), and increased the amount of raw vegetables, fish and poultry in our diet. This helped a lot, as well as a lot of repititions on the Ultimate Abdominal machine at the gym, and a lot of suspension work (whereby you suspend yourself, and lift your legs as high as you can for as long as you can, or hold your legs out at a 90° angle – you can really feel the pull on your abs). So I pulled, and pushed and strained and grunted through the main weight floor of the gym for the next 3 months.

By this stage, I have to say that I was starting to find it harder and harder to get myself to the gym to go through the routines. I realised that I needed to add some sort of variety to my program, so at New Years weekend this year I decided to do my first class. I looked at all the alternatives, and assessed what I thought I could do, and couldn’t do. I have done yoga before (and enjoyed it) but felt that it wasn’t dynamic enough to maintain the body profile I was aiming for. I still haven’t tried pilates, but it is on my list. Anything that involved balance was out (I have peripheral neuopathy…the numb type, not the painful. This means I have no feeling in my feet and ankles), anything involving too much co-ordination was out (I’m unco-ordinated at the best of times), and anything done in dark rooms – such as Spin – was out, as I’m partially blind and have night-blindness. So, this left me with Body Pump, a class that involves work with weights, and is very dynamic and very muscle and cardio-orientated. You really push your heart rate up doing these classes. I found I really loved Pump, and have stuck with it right through to now. I avoid lunges (for balance reasons), and do squats instead, which means a double session of squats every class, which can really push you to your limits, especially when you have 25- 28 kgs of weight sitting on your upper back to add to the challenge. The routine (all Les Mills classes are done in most gyms these days, so it doesn’t matter where you go, you will always know what to expect from a class) changes every three months, so just as you are getting bored with it, it changes. So, I started doing two morning classes a week (on Monday and Friday, and usually the token male in the class at that time of day), and did one day a week in the weight room to work whatever muscles didn’t get worked in the class. Having just moved from Sydney to Brisbane, I found the break in routine, and to a new gym and environment a bit unsettling.I have just got back into my two Pump classes, and will probably get back to my resistence work sometime in the next couple of weeks.

So, what has the end result of all this been. To be honest, the result has been staggering. I still look in the mirror and think to myself “Is that really you?”. I have my hips and arse back big time, and can walk around in a singlet without feeling embarrassed. I have pecs, I have muscled arms and legs. My posture has improved, as has my energy levels and my flexibility. I have gone off my cholesterol meds. My self esteem has gone through the roof, and I can honestly say that I feel absolutely fantastic, and that is reflected in how I look and dress. I have come to realise that there is more to me than I ever thought there was – I can set goals and challenges and achieve them, I can push myself beyond my limits when I have a reason to, and that I can establish routines and stick to them when I have an end objective. I now feel that I can go into my elder years truly fit and healthy, and that in many ways that is going to help cut back the risks that I would have faced without going through this metamorphisis. I can move forward knowing that I am still flexible, that high blood pressure and cholesterol aren’t going to plague me, and that problems that result from being over-weight have pretty well been eliminated.

What would I recommend to other guys my age? If you smoke…STOP! If you have a bad diet…FIX IT – it’s not rocket science. Don’t think that walking the dog is all you need to do – if you are over-weight, do something about it. Look at the long-term, not the short. It is not about having the body beautiful (though it helps) it is about being fit and healthy, and prolonging your prospects for good health and wellbeing as you progress through the years. Don’t think (like I did) that looking fit and healthy is just for the young. The flow-on affects of a good exercise routine are endless, both in your public and private life. Look good and feel good – you’ll thank yourself for it.

Tim Alderman.
Copyright 2010


Reclaiming the G-A-Y

It’s gone!

I don’t know if somebody snuck into my bedroom while I slept and stole it, or if I have just forgotten where I put it! Checked the spare room. Not there! Checked under the house. Not there! Even checked the dog kennel, but no, not there either! One day here, the next day – gone! And just what is this mystery that I am running around, trying to find? well, I hate to admit it, but somewhere along the line I have lost G-A-Y. I’m really missing it, so if you do happen to see it, PLEASE grab it for me, and bring it back. I spent the majority of my life putting G-A-Y together, making it a thing that I showed off with immense pride. Indeed, some said I flaunted it. And as quickly as it was gained, so it has disappeared.

Just as an example of how serious losing G-A-Y is, I tried this morning to do a very G-A-Y thing – swish my hips. Now, this used to happen naturally. I’d take a step – swish! Take another step – swish! Do a little mincey run – swish-swish-swish-swish. Didn’t have to ponder it. It just was! But today….they wouldn’t swish! To be honest, it looked as though something very uncomfortable was stuck up my bum! Like that horrible bum-creep you get from badly cut undies. In fact I couldn’t even get them to do a jiggle. But as much as this was bad, worse was to come. I tried to limp my wrist. I even hunted down a photo of both Boy George and Quentin Crisp to make sure I was doing it right – now how fucking bad is that. Even thinking I need to learn it is really serious shit! Now, you know the limp I am talking about; that flourishy thing that true queens are really good at! Well, it just didn’t happen. It just looked as though I had a broken wrist, or worse still that I had just dropped a handful of small change. And let’s not forget the lisp, something that even Ita has never lost. That slight but obvious distortion of the S sound, making it more like STH, as in sthweetie. Yes, I know, I know – I never had a lisp. My plum-in-the-mouth way of speaking was the result of a private education – absolutely nothing to do with the G-A-Y gene!. But I should at least have been able to fake a lisp! FFS I’m G-A-Y!

I was distraught! How could this had happened, how could it have snuck up on me so quickly, like an unwanted dose of the flu. It was bad enough that I attended a nightclub a couple of weekends ago, and thought the constant thump of instrumental music was abysmal. “Whatever happened to vocals!”, I screamed at my partner over the bass. Well, whatever happened to handbag when it comes to that! We did try to dance; Even my father could have done better. Fuck, now I’m doing dad dancing. Very sad! But then you can’t outrightly dismiss things. You have to give them a go. But a shuffle isn’t a dance. On top of all this we had taken an ‘E’ that had very much decided that it was not going to kick in – well, not this week anyway. We wandered back to the balconies.

To make things worse, there were some very sexy men roaming around without their shirts on. Now I have to admit to a twinge of jealousy in having to acknowledge, to myself, that there was not even a remote hope in hell that one of them would even throw me a glance,, let alone try to pick me up. That’s one sure way for an ageing queen to feel really unG-A-Y.. It’s not that I’ve lost the ability to be a slut – hell, that comes naturally to all of us – it’s more a matter of never being caught up in the gym culture, and though certainly not overweight, I’m definitely not a six-pack on legs.. And watching them, one has to wonder just what significance do brains have for these torqued bodies anyway? Are they taking each other home to solve “Scrabble” grids, or watch Q&A on the ABC? I think not! Who needs brains when you have a body.

I had a lot of G-A-Y in my younger days. I’m sure there are those who would say perhaps too much. I was both singularly and plurally – a nightclub pig; a minor druggie – though more so if there was good acid around; a big slut; no, a very big slut; a party animal; a clone; a pseudo leatherman; – and would take any opportunity to dress G-A-Y; speak G-A-Y; act G-A-Y; eat G-A-Y and just generally be…G-A-Y.

I would attend protest rallies for all things G-A-Y – though as often as not be there just to cruise (refer to my note on being a big slut). I would attend any group or party, and read any paper that was said to support anything G-A-Y. I have done gutter drag. I have supported and done my fair share for all things HIV/AIDS…and herein, perhaps, lies the crux of the matter, pointing the way to where G-A-Y disappeared to.

Twenty years of – being; living; fighting; writing; reading; talking and surviving – and don’t you dare rob me of the use of that word – HIV/AIDS has in some part stolen that iota of me that was G-A-Y. Let’s be honest about HIV/AIDS – it wore us all out. It was at our throats day and night. We lived it, and breathed it, day in and day out 24/7. We nursed it, cajoled it, hated it, and then hated it even more as we buried it. And Instead of being G-A-Y males who just happened to be HIV+, we became HIV+ males who just happened to be G-A-Y.

So back on track in my search for G-A-Y. Oh sure, I still read the papers – takes me all of five minutes these days – and if the parties were still even basically G-A-Y I might, at least on occasion, attend one or two. But they are not, nor ever will be again. The days of la grande party are over. Just as our streets and clubs have been sacrificed to the straight community in the name of political correctness and assimilation, so the community has slowly sold itself out to other, less G-A-Y concerns. Some say the day of the G-A-Y ghetto are over, and I’m not going to argue that, as all things mature and evolve. But did we really need to annihilate it!

Even if I wanted to revert to the G-A-Y stereotype of old – not that I object to that stereotype – I doubt anyone would recognise what I was attempting to do. A sad attempt to regain that which I had had, and lost in the wake of a greater cause. The only way I can really try to regain the G-A-Y in my life these days is to have a fashionable home – seen only be close friends; dress a little bit twink – I just get away with it; have my hair spiked – yes, I still have it all and it is not dyed; and throw dinner parties – again, which only close friends attend. As far as everything else goes – well, now it takes me a week to recover from a night out on a single ‘E’; I love modern dance music – especially Trance – just don’t ask me who the artist is, I can enjoy bars still – if I can get past the bouncer on the door; I get cranky at Mardi Gras trying to be ‘big business’; I’m sick of the sight of standoffish six-packs on roids; and I want to go to bed at midnight. What sort of G-A-Y person does that!

Perhaps the secret is not to get G-A-Y back. Perhaps the memories and my few remaining friends should be enough to reminisce with about what G-A-Y used to be like. Perhaps once having lost G-A-Y you can never get it back! Fuck, now there is a terrifying thought! Or perhaps I just heed to step back from it all for a while. Ruminate on where I fit into it all now. One thing I do know for sure…having been spewed out of the arse-end of HIV, I no longer view it all through rose-coloured glasses.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I don’t hate G-A-Y. But neither does it hold the great fascination that it once enthralled me with. I don’t want to be a 50-year-old G-A-Y man trying to look – and fit into – a 20-year-olds world. That would be just fooling myself. I want to be able to be just who I am; with those who think like me and act like me and are also now…old and G-A-Y. I hate feeling cut off and alienated, and that is not a road I am walking alone. The truth is that G-A-Y has not been lost. G-A-Y has in fact been found. G-A-Y has metamorphosed.

G-A-Y has come home

So perhaps the best I can hope for is – NOT to end up like my parents! Now that would be reclaiming G-A-Y!

Tim Alderman
Copyright ©2001


Will You Still Feed Me…?

I have an idealised image of growing old with my partner and drifting out of this life in my sleep. In this ideal world of ageing, there is no pain, nor any unpleasantness. Occasionally, though, reality creeps into my thoughts, causing me to wonder just what will happen as the years speed by. The fact that I’m the older partner in the relationship doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be first to die. Nor does it mean that any of life’s unpleasantries are not going to overtake one or the other of us in the guise of cancer, dementia or other illnesses.

The most frightening scenario is one where I’m left suddenly on my own and have to find new ways to cope. It’s difficult enough to adapt to new life situations when you’re young, let alone when you’re set in your ways. The prospect of ending up in a nursing home is something most of us don’t want to contemplate. A quick bit of research indicates that a lot of HIV+ guys perceive that they are ageing at a faster rate than most people the same age and fear the early onset of cancer, dementia and diabetes. But what about those of us who are hale and hearty and making lifestyle choices to try to ease the way into a healthy old age? I guess we’ll find out all about it when we get there.

At 58, and having now lived with HIV for 30 years, I’m trying my best to take a positive approach to ageing. To my way of thinking, my brush with AIDS in the mid-’90s was about as scary as it could get. Having survived and retained my sense of self (and humour), I fail to see how anything could scare me again.

Dirty old man
I decided a long time ago that I was going to become a Dirty Old Man (DOM) in my old age and to that end I’m already working. As a DOM I can wink, make innuendos, pinch bums, eye up and down and generally make a fool of myself in the presence of any handsome guys and get away with it because, well, I’m a DOM and it’s expected. I’m going to derive a great deal of pleasure out of this and brag about every creepy thing I do to other DOM friends, who will be numerous. This behaviour will, of course, come with me into the nursing home.

Now, let’s talk about my concept of the nursing home I will be in. It will have all modcons, from Foxtel and the latest in computer, phone and tablet connectivity. No jelly and ice cream in our gourmet dining room and the 24/7 gym will be staffed by the hunkiest of personal trainers, who will put up with our erratic behaviour. Likewise the male nurses will be tanned and hunky and dressed in the skimpiest clothes available. The nightclub and bar will be staffed by the best DJs and the dancefloor will be zimmerframe and wheelchair accessible. All our pets will be catered for in equal luxury.

Now, with many of the patients in this imaginary nursing home having read my fitness and healthy eating columns, muscle-bound, slim and over-active elders will be the order of the day and day trips to the latest hip cafes will be a weekly experience. Life will be a dream and we will all depart this life with smiles from ear to ear.

The reality
I fear the reality may be quite different. According to NAPWA (National Association of People with AIDS), there are about 19,000 people in Australia living with HIV and of those, about 30 percent are over 49. At this rate there is going to be a rush for the retirement home doors. If you happen to be gay and HIV+, you don’t, at this time, have a lot of options. Considering that a lot of available aged care is run by religious organisations, identifying appropriate aged care is a bit scary. Unless the gay community start to invest in their old age by putting money into gay nursing homes, I fear you and I will end up in a home that will be inadequate to our needs and certainly won’t allow us to be ourselves in the company of like-minded individuals. If we have HIV, I dare say there will be little in the way of experienced medical care and nursing.

In Australia things seem to be moving a lot slower than in the US, where gay and lesbian retirement homes are already up and running. In our own backyard, GRAI (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Retirement Association, Incorporated) at GRAI.org.au is a WA-based volunteer group whose mission is to ‘create a responsive and inclusive mature-age environment that promotes and supports a quality of life for older and ageing people of diverse sexualities and gender identities’. In July 2010 they launched a report in conjunction with Curtin University entitled We Don’t Have Any of Those People Here. Though the research is WA-oriented, it would hold for any state in Australia. They point out that baby-boomer retirees are likely to be the first generation to be openly out as they age (which will also apply to HIV people, especially long-termers), which means that service providers, agencies and Government will need to approach glbt/HIV people very differently to any other group of retirees in years to come.

In 2008, the gay press mooted the building of the first glbt retirement village in Victoria, called Linton Estate. A check of the website doesn’t show any info past that date, though a 2011 report in the Star Observer indicates that retirement apartments are for sale from the plan. According to one report [in outdownunder.com] there are to be 120 units, with a heated spa, bar, cafe, library, croquet lawn (just how old do they think these people are?), tennis courts and much more. Construction is now expected to start in 2012. Things about this that make me nervous: buying off the plan for something that doesn’t as yet exist and is it going to be affordable (or elitist), considering that many of us will be surviving on the pension. I have always laughed at the notion of the pink dollar, whereby we are assumed to have limitless amounts of money to live lives of luxury, when the reality is that most of us struggle to get by. I certainly won’t be getting any inheritance and most other baby boomers are rushing to spend their money before they get too old to enjoy it. Let’s hear it for reality checks!

Just a dream
Fantasising about a gay retirement village is all very nice, but I fear most of us are going to find the dream of a gay retirement in diverse and HIV-knowledgeable environments just that … a dream. We also have to look at our unhealthy lifestyles, as we continue to get obese, drink too much and continue smoking (still a big problem in the HIV community), added to problems of social isolation, lack of interests, a drop in exercise due to laziness (let’s not bullshit here) and as you can see, there is a plethora of problems facing us as an ageing community. These things need to be addressed – and fast!

For some, one of the potential outcomes of limited choice is a return to the closet as a way of ensuring security, in conjunction with a move to the outer suburbs and away from the glbt/HIV community due to the lack of affordable accommodation in the inner city and suburbs.

As a 58-year-old gay HIV+ man in a long-term relationship, I need to start assessing the future realities of life, as pleasant or unpleasant as they may be. I don’t want to be left on my own to deal with my old age, nor do I want my partner to be. In all likelihood we will be together as we run into this stage of our lives (unless one or the other of us runs into a particularly hot 70-year-old – with lots of money, naturally), so sooner or later one of us is going to die and the other will have to continue life on their own. It would be cathartic to think that either of us could get accommodation that was both supportive, suitable and met all the social and medical needs of both gay and HIV people. Somebody will decide to do something about this eventually, though in all likelihood 50 reports will have been written on the subject and many dozens of older HIV+ people will have passed out of this life in undignified circumstances before action will be taken. The suicide rate amongst older glbt and HIcxxV+ people would be interesting to know, especially considering that our coping mechanisms added to problems of discrimination and isolation decline as we enter extreme old age.

This is food for thought for all of us, young and old. Anyone who thinks they will never be old lives in Never Never land and anyone who thinks it’s someone else’s problem needs to get a life. Let’s give our elderly the respect and acknowledgement that is due to them.

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2011

P.S: In an article in QNews dated 27th April 2012, the Gillard government announced changes to aged care that ensured GLBTI aged that service providers would be required to support their special needs. The reforms are part of a package to keep seniors at home for as long as possible. GLBTI seniors have been added to the “special needs” category. Aged care operators are required to allocate places in this group. This means that for the first time, places are required to be set aside for these seniors. It is also the first legislation to include Intersex people in the special needs category.
To read the full article go to http://qnews.com.au/article/glbti-seniors-aged-care-bedded-down-0#