An Agentic Familiarity: The Context of HIV/AIDS and Sexual Orientation for Older Canadians during the COVID-19 Pandemic




de Vries, Brian
Gutman, Gloria
Beringer, Robert
Gill, Paneet
Karbakhsh, Mojgan

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This paper examines how experiences with a previous pandemic, particularly HIV/AIDS, may have informed approaches to COVID-19, with a focus on sexual orientation. Method: The sample was drawn from an online survey of Canadians 55+ conducted in 2020, comprising 1143 persons (mean age = 67; 88 gay or bisexual (GB) men, 65 lesbian or bisexual (LB) women, 818 heterosexual women, and 172 heterosexual men). Respondents reported if they, or someone close to them, “had been affected by” one or more pandemics and whether COVID-19 led them to “think more about their prior epidemic/pandemic experiences” and/or feel they “couldn’t handle it again”. Correlated items reflecting feeling “they have been here before”; “prepared for what is happening”; and “like they needed to act or do something” formed a scale named “agentic familiarity”. Results: About half of respondents reported thinking about their previous pandemic experience; about 5% reporting feeling like “they couldn’t handle it again” with no gender or sexual orientation differences. Higher agentic familiarity scores were found for GB men and for those with experience with HIV/AIDS vs. other pandemics. Discussion: These outcomes speak to resilience and growth experienced by LGBT (and especially GB) persons through shared stigma and trauma—with implications for current pandemic experiences and future actions, like advance care planning.



COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, gay, bisexual, sexual orientation, lesbian, future planning


de Vries, B., Gutman, G., Beringer, R., Gill, P., & Karbakhsh, M. (2023). An agentic familiarity: The context of HIV/AIDS and sexual orientation for older Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare, 11(21), 2869.