18 posts categorized "HIV & Aging"

September 18, 2015

On National HIV/Aging Awareness Day: Alarming Statistics

Aids_day_GenLogo_RGB300From establishing America’s first HIV/AIDS support group for older adults, to igniting changes in national policy, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) leads the fight against this epidemic in the aging community.  On this National HIV/Aging Awareness Day, 50% of Americans living with HIV will be over 50.  With graying demographics—and adults over 50 accounting for one in six new diagnoses—that number is projected to soar to 70% in 2020. As ACRIA’s research shows, older adults with HIV have higher rates of depression, struggle with more comorbidities, and lack robust support networks to enable them to age in place with dignity and respect. Social isolation, higher rates of poverty, and a lack of access to culturally competent healthcare compound the problem.  What is most upsetting about these age-related disparities? HIV-positive older adults are more likely to be diagnosed later, too often when the virus has progressed to AIDS.

The Administration on Aging released its Older Adults and HIV/AIDS Toolkit in 2011 to help service providers educate their constituents about HIV prevention and care management. To our disappointment, the federal government has not taken further action to improve policies, services, and education surrounding this issue. The White House recently held its annual White House Conference on Aging, a unique opportunity to explore what we have accomplished in federal aging policy over the past decade, and where we hope to go within the next ten years.  The conference issued four policy briefs, including one on Healthy Aging.  How many times is HIV/AIDS mentioned?  Not once.  In fact, the entire website has only one blog post touching on the issue.  

What more can the federal government do to help older Americans? Our recommendations:  (1) expand care, services and support for older adults living with HIV/AIDS; (2) initiate new research; (3) revise testing guidelines; and (4) improve data collection.  What are some concrete examples of actions the federal government can take? One easy example: the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) recommendation on routine HIV testing, which currently cuts off at age 65.  Testing has been shown to be life-saving and cost-effective well beyond that age, and USPSTF should amend this policy to include individuals 65 and over.  Another easy example: targeted prevention campaigns. ACRIA’s Age is Not a Condom campaign provides a great example of what the federal government could do.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) should develop prevention campaigns and other interventions targeting older adults.   

In the coming months, SAGE, ACRIA, and the American Psychological Association will work with the Office of National AIDS Policy to implement its updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Throughout this initiative—as well as those directed by the CDC and other federal bodies—we will fight for policies that are inclusive of older adults.   

--Posted by Aaron Tax, SAGE Director of Federal Government Relations

May 12, 2015

Get Into the Act

15549360990_084aba77ec_mThis year’s theme for Older Americans Month is “Get into the Act.” Although unintended, the theme made me think of how often LGBT older adults have had to “act” throughout their lives – whether it was living in the closet growing-up in a time and place when it was not acceptable to be out – or the unfortunate number who feel compelled to go back into the closet as they get older and enter places where they feel more vulnerable and don’t feel safe or comfortable being out. The bottom line, of course, is that after spending a lifetime of trying to get out of the closet, LGBT older adults have earned the right to grow older in places where they don’t need to act straight and/or cis-gender, but where they can be their authentic selves.

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is turning 50 this year. It serves as the country's leading vehicle for delivering services to older people nationwide, providing more than $2 billion annually in nutrition and social services. Since its enactment, the OAA has aimed to ensure that older people have the supports they need to age in good health and with broad community support. And what better time to look at the act and celebrate all that it has accomplished to enable all older adults, including LGBT older adults, to grow old and age with independence, dignity, and respect in their own communities.

It’s also a good time to consider that this primary vehicle for the delivery of supports and services to older adults makes no mention of LGBT older adults. Due to be reauthorized, SAGE is mindful that at some point in the near future, whether it’s through administrative change or legislative change, it’s necessary for this all-important piece of aging legislation to explicitly include LGBT older adults. This means, among other things, that through data collection, we might once and for all come to understand the degree to which aging programs and services are reaching and meeting the needs of LGBT older adults. And to the extent LGBT older adults are not being reached, by having targeting language, the aging network will need to step up to the plate and target services and supports to LGBT older adults.

The goal of the Older Americans Act, is in part, to reach those who are most vulnerable. Unfortunately, LGBT older adults all too often fit the bill. As we celebrate Older Americans Month it’s time for the Older Americans Act to ensure that LGBT older adults will no longer need to act, but can be their authentic selves, and get the services and supports they need. Interested in making your voice heard? Fill out our survey on LGBT voices that we'll be taking to The White House in July for the White House Conference on Aging!

This post was written by Aaron Tax, SAGE's Director of Federal Policy.

December 1, 2014

Recognizing World AIDS Day

AIDSRibbonDid you know that research estimates project that by 2015, one in two people with HIV in this country will be age 50 and older?  Further, HIV infections are on the rise among older people, many of whom are likely to be dually diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.

The demographic face of HIV/AIDS is a graying one and the latest national data show that adults 50 and older account for 17% of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses and 29%  of all persons living with AIDS. Despite the rise in HIV infections among older people, few prevention efforts explicitly target older adults with age-sensitive information and education. On this World AIDS Day, SAGE would like to recognize the challenges that our older adults face and bring to light information on  what it means to live and age with HIV—especially as diverse LGBT communities.

November 6, 2014

People at Out & Equal are talking about Out & Visible!

People are talking about Out & Visible! Our new study of the fears, beliefs, behaviors and aspirations of LGBT older adults offers important--and startling--statistics that have long been missing from our conversations about LGBT aging. At the Out & Equal conference in San Francisco yesterday, a panel of representatives from major financial and consumer companies weighed in on how the report can help them better serve our communities. We're excited to share the findings of this study with new audiences across the country, and to hear their responses.


For example, Out & Visible found that LGBT older people are far more concerned than non-LGBT older people about their financial security and retirement. 42% of LGBT older people are very or extremely concerned that they'll outlive their retirement savings, as compared to 25% of non-LGBT people.  A panelist from Prudential, Josh Stoffregen, remarked that "Being able to better understand the unique needs and challenges the older LGBT population is facing helps us as we continue to learn more about all aspects of our community.  We're pleased that SAGE is shedding light on this important topic."

Despite our years of recent progress, LGBT people still struggle with disproportionate barriers to health and happiness. Out & Visible provides many insights which reveal the extent of these issues and the work that's still necessary to create longer, healthier lives for LGBT older adults.

--Posted by Kira Garcia

October 24, 2014

The Disease That Defined My Generation

Perry Halkitis Photo1SAGE is honored to have Perry N. Halkitis, Ph.D., M.P.H., Professor of Applied Psychology, Public Health and Population Health, NYU, as our keynote speaker for this year’s annual SAGENet affiliate meeting. Dr. Halkitis will be talking about Survival and Resilience: How the Experiences of Long Term Survivors Inform the Delivery of Care for Adults Aging with HIV. His post below was originally featured on The Huffington Post on September 25, 2014.

PBS recently aired a documentary, The Boomer List, examining the life stories and experiences of those born in the United Sates between 1946 and 1964. According to these parameters, I too am a baby boomer having been born in 1963. But despite this chronological reality, I have never felt any particular kinship or connection with the baby boomer generation, a sense that was validated as I listened to the interviews of most of those who were depicted in the documentary.

The ideas of historians William Strauss and Neil Howe provide ample explanation for why I feel the way that I do. Beginning with their seminal work Generations, Strauss and Howe postulated a framework for delineating generations that has less to do with historical intervals defined by years than by the shared sensibilities. In their view, a generation shares age location in history. Those who constitute a generation experience significant historical events, social trends, and other phenomena while in similar developmental period of their lives. Because of these experiences, members of a generation are shaped throughout the course of their lives by these elements that they encounter during their childhoods an/or emerging and young adulthoods. In this perspective, I am a member of Generation X and not a baby boomer. That seems right to me.

But my point has less to do with my being a baby boomer or member of Gen X than it does with me being a member of another generation -- the AIDS Generation. For those of us who came or were coming of age during the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, our experiences were shaped by this epidemic that was devastating our country and taking countless lives. All of us who came of age at the time are members of the AIDS Generation -- men and women, gay and straight, HIV-positive and HIV-negative. Whether we experienced the epidemic front and center in cities such as New York or Los Angeles or whether we watched it from afar in news accounts in our small hometowns, this disease defined our formative years and is forever embedded in our consciousness.

I explore these ideas in my book, The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience, in which I document the life experience of 15 gay men who are long-term survivors of the epidemic. For gay men of my generation, in particular, this disease has left its inedible mark and has defined our lives for the last three decades. In the book I write:

Many of my generation entered our teens and young adulthood in this historical period of the 1970s and 1980s with a sense of confidence and zeal due to the efforts of our predecessors, the Stonewall generation--who spent years hiding their identity--demanding their rights and easing the path for us. We had also the energy of the civil rights and women's rights movements to support us. This is not to say that we came into our own with ease and without fear. Many of us still remained in our closet throughout our high school years for fear of being found out to be a faggot. Still, the promise for sexual freedom and sexual expression existed within our grasp. Little were we to know that we would become the AIDS Generation, and that within a decade this deadly disease would destroy our physical, emotional, and social lives. I know this because I am part of the AIDS Generation (p.5)

Some 33 years after the initial diagnosis of HIV in the United Sates and with hundreds of thousands deaths of gay men in the last three decades, the disease that defined my generation continues to afflict us. In 2010, 72 percent of all new HIV infections were among gay and bisexual men, and those entering their formative years nowadays continue to do battle with this disease. It is true that some conditions in the lives of gay men have improved in the last three decades. We now have effective treatments to fight HIV infection, the use of an HIV antiviral in the form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) provides us with another powerful tool in our arsenal to prevent the disease from spreading, and historic legislation enacted over the last several years has enhanced our civil rights and protections. Be that as it may, this disease continues to haunt us and negatively impact our lives.

On September 27th as we acknowledge the National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, it is time for all of us to take stock and band together socially, politically, and emotionally to demand an end to the AIDS epidemic -- an idea espoused by progressive leaders such as New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo.

I am a member of the AIDS Generation. And unless we continue to fight this disease on all fronts and enhance and protect the health of gay men, my generation is only the first of many generations of gay men who will continue to battle this despicable disease.

Follow Perry N. Halkitis, Ph.D., M.P.H. on Twitter:www.twitter.com/DrPNHalkitis


October 14, 2014

The White House Highlights Challenges/Opportunities for Addressing HIV/AIDS among Gay and Bi Men

Photo 1
Aaron Tax, Director of Federal Relations, SAGE and Daniel W. Tietz Chief Special Services Officer Office of the Commissioner, NYC Human Resources Administration

Today's post is written by Aaron Tax, SAGE's SAGE’s Director of Federal Government Relations.

On September 26, 2014, in recognition of National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Office of National AIDS Policy hosted a conference at the White House entitled “HIV among Gay and Bisexual Men: FOCUS. ACTION. IMPACT.”

Why this focus? As the White House stated, “In the United States, gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities continue to account for 63% of all new HIV infections. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy unequivocally states that “the United States cannot reduce the number of HIV infections nationally without better addressing HIV among gay and bisexual men.”’

Given this challenge, the goal of the meeting was to create actual actions steps the White House and federal agencies could take to address the epidemic and implement by the end of the Administration.

By next year, one in two people who are HIV positive will be over the age of 50. This population has higher poverty rates than their counterparts and remains more socially isolated. Yet, neither the aging network nor HIV-serving organizations have all the necessary technical skills, resources, knowledge, or general cultural competency and capacity to work with this population. Aside from an NIH working group focusing on increasing research in this area, no federal agency currently targets interventions at this population.

So as always, SAGE worked to bring an aging lens to the conversation, to highlight the lack of government action on this front.

We co-hosted a break-out session with Dan Tietz, Chief Special Services Officer, Office of the Commissioner, New York City Human Resources Administration, where we specifically focused on HIV and aging – and where we discussed a) how improve care, services, and supports for this population, and b) how to improve testing rates.

Fortuitously, next year, the White House will be hosting the White House Conference on Aging, which presents a great opportunity for the White House to specifically address the unique needs of this population and the need for the government to address the challenges raised at this day-long summit.

We look forward to working with the Administration to see a day when we have universal testing; better data collection; targeted prevention; research interventions; and targeted services and supports for older adults with and at risk for HIV.


September 18, 2014

HIV, Aging and LGBT people: A Metamorphosis


On April 3, 2008, my longtime friend Don (last name withheld) tested positive for HIV, the same day as his mother’s 56th birthday. He remembers the day vividly. “I had given blood to my doctor and a couple weeks later, I still hadn’t received a call. I called my doctor’s office and they said, ‘There’s an anomaly with your blood.’ I immediately freaked out and thought, ‘God, this is it.'” Don took the last appointment of the day and a few hours later received his diagnosis, along with a few referrals. He went home “to pull myself together, call my mom and wish her a happy birthday.” He wouldn’t share his HIV status with his mother for several years.

“It stopped me dead in my tracks,” he says of that day. “And even though having an HIV diagnosis isn’t the same as it was 15 or 20 years ago, I immediately saw the end. I had dreams where I would see this road that said: ‘dead end.'”

At 42, Don represents a notable demographic segment of the U.S. population living with HIV/AIDS. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),the highest rates of HIV prevalence, by age group, are among people ages 45-49 and ages 40-45—20% and 16%, respectively. As these people in their 40s and their older peers age, spurred in large part by medical advances, people age 50 and older will make up roughly 70 percent of Americans with HIV by the year 2020.

Yet aging with HIV can be especially difficult. Older adults with HIV report high levels of isolation, yet few community spaces embrace their full identities as older people, people with HIV and, in most cases, given the epidemic’s prevalence, LGBT and people of color. Additionally, medical research has found multiple health concerns related to aging with HIV—and the psychological dimensions of living with HIV, or a new diagnosis, can spur its own storms. Without a large-scale, dedicated response, the “younger” end of this older adult spectrum, including Don, will join their older peers over the next decade in entering an aging system unprepared to meet their unique needs, despite their overwhelming numbers.

Continue reading "HIV, Aging and LGBT people: A Metamorphosis" »

February 7, 2014

Fighting HIV/AIDS: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Badge-national-black-hiv-awarenessWhile we honor our heroes and LGBT constituents for Black History Month with a series of events and future online profiles, we must also recognize the impact that HIV/AIDS has on the African American community. Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and if you don't think that's a big deal, check out the stats. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) fast facts:

  • African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV.
  • The rate of new HIV infection in African Americans is 8 times that of whites based on population size.
  • Gay and bisexual men account for most new infections among African Americans; young gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 are the most affected of this group.


Ten-Things-Every-LGBT-Older-Adult-Should-Know-About-HIV-and-AIDS-1These statistics don't take into account the issues facing LGBT older adults and HIV/AIDS. For example, older adults are often not tested for HIV because of providers' misconceptions that they are no longer sexually active.  Research also shows that by 2015, one in two people with HIV/AIDS will be age 50 and older. Overall, the rates of HIV/AIDS among older adults 50+ have increased more than 61 percent from 2001 to 2007. Interested in learning more? Check out our Ten Things Every LGBT Older Adult Should Know About HIV and AIDS. You can also read about how "HIV/AIDS is Still an Issue for Older Gay Black Men" and words from Helena Bushong: "I am a 60-Year-Old Trans Female Living with HIV."

As part of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we urge people to spread the word and to get tested. To find a testing site near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), visit the National HIV and STD Testing Resources page, or text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948). You can also use one of the two FDA-approved home testing kits available in drugstores or online.

December 1, 2013

Recognizing World AIDS Day

WAD-logo-2013In recognition of World AIDS Day, SAGE honors those who we have lost to the disease and all people currently living and caring for those who have HIV/AIDS.  Considering that research indicates that by 2015 half of the people living with HIV in the U.S. will be over 50 years old, this is an issue that SAGE is deeply involved in, both in the services we offer and the federal policy work we do in conjunction with AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA) and Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC). 

Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation," this year's theme, focuses on the strides made with preventative care and treatment with the goal of ending this devastating epidemic. Watch the video below from UNAIDS for a hopeful message from Executive Director Michel Sidibé and read on for more links about the day.

September 27, 2013

Senate Special Committee on Aging Marks National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

Aaron_taxIn recognition of National Gay Men's HIV Awareness Day, SAGE's Director of Federal Relations, Aaron Tax, gives his recap of SAGE's involvment in National HIV/AIDS & Aging Awareness Day in Washington, D.C.

On September 18, 2013, the Senate Special Committee on Aging—along with SAGE and our partners ACRIA, GMHC, HRC, and NHCOA—helped bring a series of events to Capitol Hill to mark National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day.  From a morning briefing, to a hearing in the afternoon, there were a number of strong and compelling voices who spoke of the challenges the aging network, medical field, and research community face with the graying of AIDS. 

At the briefing, Lisa Fitzpatrick, MD, Medical Director, Infectious Diseases Care Center, United Medical Center, spoke of the importance of making HIV testing as routine as testing for diabetes, high cholesterol, and other issues that disproportionately impact older adults; her view was echoed by other experts attending the briefing. Including HIV in the normal battery of tests would be an important step toward lessening the stigma surrounding HIV (and HIV testing), and it would increase the likelihood that individuals would be tested regardless of actual or perceived risk category.  (Currently, HIV testing is recommended for people only up to age 64.

Dr. Henry Pacheco, Director of Medicine and Public Health for NHCOA, added the voice of one of our Diverse Elders Coalition partners.  Dr. Pacheco explained that the HIV/AIDS rate for those Latinos who are 50-plus in the United States is five times higher than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.  He talked about how the population that NHCOA serves has not been reached or targeted in outreach efforts for a variety of reasons, including the usual misconception that older adults don’t use drugs and don’t have sex, but also, cultural, linguistic, and generational barriers.  These barriers can be overcome, he said, by efforts tailored to the Hispanic community, including the use of of “pase la voz,” word-of-mouth, to spread awareness, and “charlas,” informal educational sessions, specifically designed to reach Hispanic older adults.

1senateLater in the day, at the hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) challenged the administration on whether it is properly focusing its HIV resources on prevention, treatment, and research on older adults.  And Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) focused on the more human impacts of the HIV/AIDS crisis, recalling her days as a young public official in Wisconsin, when men, she said, became afflicted with AIDS in the big cities, but were coming home to Wisconsin to die, often at young ages. Given the fact that by 2015, half of the people who are HIV positive will be over 50, we’ve certainly made progress since that time.  The day’s briefing and hearing, however, showed there is still much to be done as we face new challenges brought on by the intersection of HIV and aging.

You can view the hearing at the Special Committee on Aging’s site. (Please scroll to the 22:00 minute mark, the start of the hearing.)

For more information on HIV & Aging, download this fact sheet, handed out at the briefing and hearing.