Every year on September 18th, National HIV and Aging Awareness Day reminds us of the growing number of long-term survivors of the HIV/AIDS crisis and the increasing numbers of older adults living with HIV. We are honored to share stories from older adults like Vince Crisostomo, Hank Trout, and Helena Buschong, who are living with HIV and documenting their journeys along the way.
The year 2020 has long been noted as a pivotal time for the demographics of people aging with HIV: as of next year, approximately 70% of people living with HIV in the United States will be age 50 or older. We also know that people living with HIV feel the effects of aging sooner, with higher rates of chronic illness and disability than people not living with HIV. As our nation struggles with a crisis of care for older adults, including a shortage of geriatricians and inadequate numbers of paid caregivers to address the myriad health needs of our aging population, the Diverse Elders Coalition urges policy changes that will ensure that the unique needs of older adults living with HIV are acknowledged and met.
We joined SAGE back in March at their National Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. to advocate for some of these policies with our leadership on Capitol Hill. One of SAGE’s legislative priorities is the LGBT Elder Americans Act, which designates LGBT older adults and older adults living with HIV as groups of “greatest social need” in the Older Americans Act. This would ensure that data is collected about people living with HIV and that they would be targeted for health and aging services in their communities.
We also reflect on the policy recommendations that the Diverse Elders Coalition set forth in our 2014 report, “Eight policy recommendations for improving the health and wellness of older adults with HIV.” Many of the policies that would support diverse elders living with HIV have not yet been enacted fully — or at all — and because of that, we are leaving a generation of survivors behind. On this National HIV and Aging Awareness Day, we urge legislators, advocates, healthcare providers, and community members to remember those who are living with HIV and the unique challenges — and resilience — that they bring to the table.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.