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HIV/AIDS and Older Adults

Almost one-third of people living with HIV in the U.S., and in New York City, are over 50.  It is estimated that by 2015, half of those living with HIV will be over 50. Many older adults with HIV are longtime survivors.  However, others are newly diagnosed or newly infected. Among people over 50 new diagnoses increased by 25% from 2006 to 2007. Since 2003, the number of newly-diagnosed women 50 and older has gone up by 40%. Overall, people over 50 made up 15% of newly-diagnosed cases of HIV in 2007.  We must insure that policies around prevention, treatment and care proactively address the particular needs of HIV-positive and at risk older adults.

By 2015, half of all New Yorkers living with HIV will be over 50.  And in 2017, the same will be true of the entire United States.  

 
“GMHC created social media campaigns directed at older people to address this need. Our “HIV is Ageless” campaign utilized images of men and women over 50 showing this demographic people who look just like them.  We know HIV can infect a person at any age and that people over 50 have sex.  We must be proactive in talking with our ‘eldersexuals’ about safer sex and the importance of getting tested.”
 
Medical research indicates that HIV accelerates the aging process.  While we are still learning about the impact of anti-retroviral medications on the body, researchers have seen increased liver and kidney problems, higher incidences of cancer, depression, bone loss, frailty and some cognitive impediments among older people living with HIV and AIDS.  
 
GMHC is very proud that two Board members were interviewed for a recent New York Times article, “Spared Death, Aging People With H.I.V. Struggle to Live.”  We thank Paul Bellman, MD and Osvaldo Perdomo for helping raise awareness of these important issues.
 
GMHC has clients who have been with us for 20 and 25 years of service, many over the age of 50.  Our services have evolved as our clients have aged.  Care plans are individualized and customized to meet the specific needs of the over 50 population.  
 
GMHC offers a number of programs serving people over 50.  Among them are:
 
Nutrition Education:
Certified and trained nutritionists provide counseling and enrollment in the food pantry program. Registered dieticians offer one-on-one counseling for clients who are interested in improving their health and quality of life through proper diet and nutrition.   Working with our older clients, nutritionists focus on health and wellness issues specifically related to the aging process and the changing health needs of those clients. 
 
Wellness Services:
Utilizing a holistic approach to client wellness, the Wellness center offers a variety of free, volunteer-led therapies and services, giving clients access to activities that may be otherwise unobtainable for those living with financial limitations, including yoga, massage therapy and exercise classes. All complimentary therapies are client focused, with individual instruction given to each participant based on their comfort levels and physical abilities. 
 
NYAHOF (New York Association for HIV Over Fifty):
NYAHOF works to ensure that the concerns of persons living with HIV over the age of fifty, and their support networks, are addressed.  NYAHOF generates educational, programmatic and policy initiatives in the field of aging ensuring access for this population to funding and services. 
 
Mental Health Services:
GMHC provides individual, group and family counseling services to clients over fifty, which are always tailored to the client’s unique presentation of needs, and guided by treatment plans that are collaboratively developed. Common issues addressed by our mental health team involve adjustment to change, depression, anxiety, loss, grief, relationships, addictions and body image/esteem.
 
Advocacy and Benefits:
GMHC assists seniors daily in navigating their health care benefits and entitlement questions.  An entire white paper about resources and needs of this population that is quickly becoming the majority of our HIV + population was written in preparation for this shift in population . 
 
HIV Testing:
GMHC’s Geffen Center provides testing to people over the age of forty-five years, by providing point-of- care HIV rapid tests.  Confirmatory tests are provided onsite on the same day preliminary positive results are given.  Linkage to care is also initiated as soon as a preliminary positive result is given. Utilizing our Mobile Testing Unit, HIV Testing is offered at a number of NORC’s (Naturally Occurring Communities), and Testing is always available onsite at GMHC’s Center for HIV Prevention. 
 
Public Policy:
In 2010, the Public Policy Department published the report , “Growing Older With the Epidemic: HIV and Aging (PDF),” and has consistently worked in coalition with other community-based organizations to plan community forums and workshops.  In 2012, staff members helped to coordinate and participate on panel discussions about HIV and aging at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC.  
 
Legislatively, the Public Policy Department is working to amend the Older Americans Act (OAA) to define older people with HIV and LGBT elders as older adults with “greatest social need,” which will prove helpful in funding programs and research focusing on this population. 

 

LINKS
GMHC’s report “Growing Older with the Epidemic: HIV and Aging” (PDF)
Achieve Fall 2009 (PDF)
AARP