September 22, 2015
What Does HIV Look Like in Our Diverse Elder Communities?
By: Jenna McDavid

I had the pleasure of attending a Grantmakers In Aging webinar yesterday that focused on the impact of HIV on our elders. Speakers on the webinar included Ben de Guzman, our National Managing Coordinator, as well as Mark Brennan-Ing of ACRIA and Aaron Tax of SAGE. As someone who is relatively new to both HIV and aging advocacy, the experience was extremely valuable to me – especially because by 2020, over 70% of the people with HIV in this country will be 50 or older.

During the presentation, Mark Brennan-Ing shared some health information about older adults with HIV. Adults over 50 years old account for 11% of new HIV infections in the United States. Additionally, elders with HIV have, on average, three chronic conditions in addition to HIV. Rates of depression are five times higher in older adults with HIV, who are also likely to lack strong social networks or caregiving resources. On the whole, community-based services are unprepared and unaware of the impending “graying of HIV” – the influx of older adults with HIV needing health and support services.

Ben spoke about the nature of HIV in our communities of color and LGBT communities. For adults 50 and over, African Americans are 12x more likely than whites of the same age to have HIV. Latino elders are five times more likely than white elders to have HIV. And Asian American women of all ages are 20% more likely than white women to be diagnosed with HIV. Finally, between 1998 and 2005 American Indian/Alaska Native people had the lowest overall survival rate of HIV.


These numbers are chilling. They speak to a lack of awareness of the unique needs of our communities of color with HIV, a lack of funding for their support services, and an absence of culturally- and linguistically-competent services for these populations. In honor of National HIV and Aging Awareness Day, the Diverse Elders Coalition released a new infographic that illustrates some of these key facts and factors about our diverse communities and HIV. We hope you will share this infographic with your networks and help us bring these shocking numbers to light.

Aaron Tax provided the antidote to some of these painful facts and figures on HIV and aging. Our member organization, SAGE, has created four policy goals for better serving older Americans with HIV. These goals include:

  • Improve care, services, and supports for older adults with HIV
  • Improve research on older adults with HIV
  • Improve HIV testing rates among older adults
  • Improve data collection on older adults with HIV

As Herbie Taylor noted in his speech on HIV and aging at our May 7th White House Conference on Aging Listening Session, the CDC’s current STD and HIV screening recommendations suggest that “all adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.” But what happens after age 64? The misconception that elders are not engaging in sexual activity leaves them vulnerable to HIV infection. Aaron encouraged the CDC and other HIV organizations to create campaigns that specifically target older adults: both those with HIV and those who are at risk of infection.

We’ll be posting the audio of today’s webinar on our HIV and Aging webpage as soon as it is available. I hope you will all listen and learn from these incredible speakers, and then take action to help us support, honor and care for our older adults with HIV.



The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.