New Initiative Launches for Older People Living with HIV/AIDS

Because more than half of people living with HIV/AIDS in the US are aged 50 and up, HIV has become an aging issue. Medical advancements over the last two and a half decades have allowed HIV-positive people the ability to live longer and healthier lives. That said, longevity is still a relatively new concept largely unexamined where survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic are concerned.

Organizations such as SAGE specifically draw focus on the experiences of older people living with HIV to improve their lives. The recent appointment of Dr. Demetre Daskalakis as Director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the CDC also looks promising for underserved communities, as LGBTQ+ people of color and Black trans women are among those most impacted by HIV.

Recently, Grantmakers In Aging, a philanthropical umbrella organization, has initiated Moving Ahead Together: A Framework for Integrating HIV/AIDS and Aging Services with the express intent of ending isolation and improving care for older people living with HIV.

Grantmakers in Aging CEO John Feather, Ph.D., said in a statement, “people living with HIV age into a sort of no man’s land that can be a lonely and potentially dangerous place. Aging services and HIV services deliver excellent care but have no history of working together, and people aging with HIV can get lost. The need for greater coordination, expertise sharing, and inclusion has been strongly affirmed by leaders in both sectors, and, importantly, by people who are themselves aging with HIV/AIDS.”

In addition to the social complexities and challenges older people with HIV contend with — such as low awareness of the issue and stigma and social isolation — Moving Ahead Together will also examine the need for more well-rounded medical, mental, and behavioral health care inclusive of social and psychosocial support.

Among the many concerns to be addressed, they will examine reducing trauma, stigma and fear of rejection in care settings and advocating for long-term care cultures that are welcoming and inclusive. And where the aging process is specifically concerned, assisting specialists in understanding the effect of HIV on older people. The group will also advocate for updated state and federal policies, such as eligibility for aging services in the federal Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) plan.

In a statement, Moving Ahead Together states that the framework they have devised will also examine “outdated assumptions about HIV, social justice issues such as racial disparities in prevalence and access to care, and parallels between the AIDS epidemic and COVID-19.” Their approach involves people living with HIV on how to confront issues that will directly impact them.

This article was originally published in Edge Media Network on December 9, 2020.