People over 50 account for almost half of Americans diagnosed with HIV
This is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. And today, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City points out some facts. They call on the public health community to focus more attention on the critical physical and mental issues faced by older adults living with or at risk of HIV infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention people aged 50 and over account for an estimated 47% of Americans living with diagnosed HIV. In New York City, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says 56% of people living with HIV are over the age of 50.
In rural Vermont, over 20% of people living with HIV are over the age of 50. This follows the national trend of an aging population due to increased access to and efficacy of medication.
“National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness day highlights the complex issues related to HIV prevention, care and treatment for aging populations in the United States. The goal of the campaign is to emphasize the need for prevention, research, and data targeting the aging population, medical understanding of the aging process and its impact on HIV/AIDS.”
At GMHC, more than 40% of the clients are 50+
“The HIV epidemic is dominated by older adults aging with HIV,” said Stephen Karpiak, PhD, Senior Director for Research for the ACRIA Centers at GMHC. “These folks are experiencing significantly more illnesses associated with aging than is typical. This heavy burden of disease, including HIV, is challenging how we care for these older adults, many of whom are long-term survivors.”
“While there is a growing awareness that there is a critical need for both more services for, and more research about, older adults living with and affected by HIV, our nation is not fully prepared for the medical and social implications of this growing population,” Karpiak said.
Existing research on appropriate treatment is limited, and HIV and AIDS stigma are widespread among older communities. The myth that older adults are not sexually active causes a serious barrier to prevention and care say experts.
GMHC is working to better understand this population
Last year, GMHC entered into a strategic partnership with ACRIA, a leading HIV prevention and research organization. They have been a pioneer in assessing the needs of older adults living with or at risk of HIV infection. And in June 2018, GMHC officially launched the Terry Brenneis Hub for Long-Term Survivors. It is a program designed to connect older clients with mental health, substance use, nutrition, wellness programming, and other services. It will enable them to lead healthier, fuller lives. ACRIA’s research studies will continue to inform these kinds of existing and future services.
GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie said, “We know that older people living with HIV and AIDS are presenting our community with a host of new challenges — and opportunities. We want to continue to be a place where these folks feel supported and where we can connect them with the appropriate care. At the same time, we’ll continue to work with our partners and supporters to educate them about what we have learned along the way.”