Out of the Closet and Into the Trenches: Gay Male Baby Boomers, Aging, and HIV/AIDS.

Published: January 31, 2012

Abstract

Regardless of HIV status, all gay male Baby Boomers are aging in a context strongly shaped by HIV/AIDS. For this subcohort within the Baby Boom generation, the disproportionately high volume of AIDS deaths among gay men aged 25-44 years at the epidemic’s peak (1987-1996) created a cohort effect, decimating their social networks and shaping their personal and social lives during the epidemic, throughout their life course, and into later years. But despite these lasting effects on an entire cohort of gay men, relevant scholarship narrowly focuses on older HIV-positive gay men using clinical, psychological, and social network approaches. It thus makes inadequate use of the life course perspective, which, by attention to timing, agency, and interdependence, can uncover the myriad interlocking and longitudinal aspects of the epidemic that affect this group. This article argues for the application of this latter approach to research into the lasting impacts of HIV/AIDS on this cohort of gay men. We examine HIV/AIDS mortality within this cohort at the epidemic’s height, these deaths’ concentration in urban gay communities, and the growing and increasingly diverse population of HIV-positive gay men born in the Baby Boom Years. Our conclusion suggests that a fuller examination of the role of HIV/AIDS in the lives of gay male Baby Boomers, using a life course perspective, is critical to appreciating this generation’s heterogeneity and to expanding knowledge of how later life is shaped by the intersection between historical events, personal biography, and social and community ties.

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