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HIV/AIDS and Older Adults

More than half of all people living with HIV in the United States are age 50 and older. Estimates show that, by 2020, 65%-70% of those living with HIV will age 50 and older.

In New York City, nearly 50% of people living with HIV are age 50 and older, and at GMHC more than 40% of our clients are age 50 and over. Many of these folks are also long-term survivors.

Medical research shows that older adults living with HIV are developing a higher frequency of age-associated disorders including cancers, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, kidney and liver dysfunction, and diabetes. Additionally, there is a critical need for more research about the service needs of older people living with HIV.

The ACRIA Centers at GMHC and the Research on Older Adults with HIV (ROAH) Studies

To underscore our commitment to learning more about the service needs of older adults living with HIV, in 2017 GMHC entered into a strategic partnership with research and advocacy organization ACRIA, long recognized for its landmark studies on older adults living with HIV and its pivotal 2006 Research on Older Adults with HIV (ROAH) study.

The newly formed ACRIA Centers at GMHC are continuing this important research with the ROAH 2.0 study. The full study will ultimately include nearly 3,000 older adults living with HIV in sites across the United States, including New York City, Upstate New York, Chicago, Alameda County (CA), and San Francisco. Findings will help social researchers and care providers across the country—including GMHC—develop more services geared specifically toward people living with HIV who are over the age of 50.

The first ROAH 2.0 report, focusing on San Francisco, demonstrates in stark terms that living with HIV as an older adult presents a unique set of challenges. Study participants face staggeringly high rates of mental health issues and levels of loneliness, as well as experience a dire need for regular social connections and health care coordination. 

More summary reports of ROAH 2.0 will be released in 2019.

GMHC Services and Programs for Older Adults Living with HIV

GMHC is committed to using ROAH 2.0 study data to continue to evolve its service offerings for older adults and long-term survivors. Current programs and services include:

The Terry Brenneis Hub for Long-Term Survivors:
Launched in June 2018, the Hub provides GMHC clients with a centralized contact and a place to connect—or reconnect—for services, resources, workshops, and events to learn and socialize for the long-term survivor community. A dedicated Long-Term Survivor Specialist can work with clients to create a holistic care plan that works for them.

Mental Health Services:
GMHC provides individual, group, and family counseling services to older clients, which are always tailored to the client’s unique presentation of needs. Common issues addressed by our mental health team involve adjustment to change, depression, anxiety, loss, grief, relationships, addictions, and body image/esteem. 

Substance Use Services:
GMHC has a variety of safe, nonjudgmental individual, group, and family services to help guide clients toward abstinence from drugs or alcohol, or to safer and better managed use of substances. Staff members also understand the distinct needs of many different populations, including older adults.

Nutrition Education:
Certified and trained nutritionists provide counseling and enrollment in the food pantry program. 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. 

Advocacy and Benefits:
GMHC assists older adults daily in navigating their health care benefits and entitlement questions.

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.

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 coalitions with other community-based organizations to plan community forums and workshops, as well as advocate for the needs of older adults on the city, state, and federal levels.