New SAGE-led coalition addresses the intersection between HIV and aging communities with support from Gilead’s HIV Aging Positively initiative
Today, in honor of the recent HIV Long Term Survivors Day, SAGE, the world’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT elders, launched the HIV & Policy Action Coalition (HAPAC). Generously funded by Gilead’s HIV Aging Positively Initiative, the coalition aims to build a dynamic, diverse, and long-term survivor driven group. HAPAC’s mission is focused on publicly acknowledging, drawing much-needed attention to, and meeting the needs of long-term survivors and LGBT older people living with HIV. This coalition is driven by long-term survivors working alongside representatives from some of our country’s leading HIV and aging advocacy organizations and community and grassroots-based organizations, including Transgender Law Center, National Minority AIDS Council, GMHC, Fenway Health, and more.
This coalition of voices from across the country was created to fill the need for a sustained advocacy effort to ensure that policymakers understand the intersection between aging and HIV/AIDS – especially its disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. With LGBT people of color being among the sub-populations that experience the highest rates of HIV, HAPAC will prioritize educating policy makers about this discrepancy, spotlighting how systemic racism has shaped who is most impacted by the AIDS epidemic, and advocating for policies that dismantle racism by explicitly addressing the needs of these underserved communities. Additionally, because so many survivors of the disease never dreamed they would live this long, the aging network and array of HIV and LGBT-focused providers have, likewise, not sufficiently planned for the aging of the disease. Many policymakers and health care providers continue to view HIV/AIDS and aging as disparate issues, even though more than 50% of people living with HIV in the U.S. are aged 50 and older. HAPAC will work to educate policymakers at the federal level and in states across the nation, encouraging them to enact policies and fund programs in support of long-term survivors and older people living with HIV.
Thanks to support from Gilead’s HIV Aging Positively initiative, HAPAC will focus its efforts on improving areas of life for long-term survivors such as healthcare, financial insecurity, employment, housing, and more. “Gilead is proud to support the SAGE and its HIV & Aging Policy Action Coalition, which is working to develop and implement policies that will improve the lives of long-term survivors living and thriving with HIV,” said Korab Zuka, Vice President of Public Affairs for Gilead Sciences. “We believe this is the time to bring all key stakeholders together, regardless of specialty, to ensure those individuals aging with HIV have access to quality healthcare and services.”
“This strong coalition made up of voices from the most underrepresented populations of long-term survivors is something that is absolutely essential while our LGBT elders deal not only with the realities of aging with this disease, but also the threats that systemic racism pose to proper care and respect for these communities,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “HAPAC is a way for SAGE to ensure HIV policymakers are educated about how to advance both aging and racial equity, including by rectifying the lack of data that exists on HIV and aging, the absence of protections and services, and the numerous other gaps that often make life exceedingly difficult for long-term survivors of HIV, especially LGBT elders of color.”
“Growing up black and gay in the 80’s and 90’s, and being diagnosed with HIV at the age of 39, I was subject to and internalized a lot of stigma,” said HAPAC Member Malcolm Reid. “I now work in the HIV field helping members in my group, “The Silver Lining Project”, deal with this stigma. I am proud to be a member of HAPAC, as our coalition is working together on a policy agenda that can mitigate some of the public and structural stigma we face.”
Visit sageusa.org/hapac to learn more about HAPAC, its members, and its mission.
SAGE is the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older people. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older people and their caregivers. SAGE also advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT elders, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT community organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competency training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE also coordinates SAGENet, a growing network of affiliates in the United States. Learn more at sageusa.org.