22 posts categorized "HIV & Aging"

April 28, 2016

Budgeting for Housing, Healthcare and Marriage Shouldn’t Be Scary

By Vera Lukacs

LGBT older adults have unique financial concerns. Not only are they faced with economic uncertainty, but they face discrimination in housing and healthcare, and the prospect of marriage is still new for many. How can LGBT older adults budget better for basic necessities? This question is important, considering that over 25 million older adults (60+) are living in poverty. Contrary to popular belief, planning and budgeting can be a positive experience! It can be tough to think about, but it’s worth doing when you have the chance to prepare and get a step ahead. Not sure where to start? Check out this LGBT Financial Planning Guide.

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Budgeting for healthcare in later years is incredibly important. LGBT older adults have a vast amount of needs that their heterosexual counterparts don’t even think about. But first, a significant factor in this process is LGBT elders need to feel comfortable sharing who they are with their healthcare providers. For transgender people seeking hormone treatments and surgeries or those with HIV, finding a provider can be a scary process. GLMA has a provider directory to help people find LGBT-competent healthcare providers.

LGBT older adults often struggle to find affordable and safe housing. Many don’t have the economic security to invest in long term care facilities, and many are denied housing simply for being who they are. Nearly half of older same-sex couples experienced at least one form of differential treatment when inquiring about housing in a long-term care facility. SAGE launched the National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative to address these issues.

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What does marriage equality mean for LGBT couples? See our new toolkit, Talk Before You Walk: Considerations for LGBT Older Couples Before Getting Married. Getting married is about more than bringing two individuals together. Marriage provides a number of benefits, rights, and protections. With these rights comes the sharing of financial liabilities. To ensure a secured household, talk with your partner before you walk!

Appointing a power of attorney can come in handy in an emergency. In the event that an LGBT older adult is incapacitated or otherwise unable to make sound decisions, a power of attorney can allow a trusted loved one to step in and decide on their behalf. For more information on planning your last wishes, see our blog Financial Literacy: Tips and Tricks for LGBT Elders!

Vera Lukacs is a digital media assistant at SAGE. April is Financial Literacy Month. What do you need to know as an LGBT older adult? Follow the SAGE blog this month for more!

April 13, 2016

Passages

This post originally appeared on Diverse Elders Coalition on April 7th, 2016. Read the original post here.

by Harry Breaux, a member of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation‘s Elizabeth Taylor 50+ Network. Harry turned 71 on March 21, 2016. He is one of the long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS featured in the documentary “Last Men Standing.” 

Passages

Recently I found myself upset with a friend and realized how small my life had become. Years ago, I was educated to be a successful something-or-other, and I tried for years to accomplish that very goal. However, once I graduated from the military school to which my parents sent me at age 12 due to my budding homosexuality, I found life to be very different than I expected. The doors that would normally open to help, were suddenly closed due to my “sexual orientation.”

There were years of shame, hiding, repressing my feelings and generally trying to be someone or something I was not. The ’70s were, in theory, the perfect time to reach out and speak out and “find myself.” It wasn’t that black and white, though.

When I was born in 1945, I was illegal. Not illegitimate, that’s a different game altogether. Homosexuality was listed as a disease until 1973 (I was 28) when the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a disease. I was born homosexual. It was not a choice I made. I remember always being attracted to the male rather than the female. Maybe it was all those manly cowboys I saw at the movies on Saturday afternoon. I could never remember who the woman was, but I knew all the cowboys. My natural, God-given desire and emotional attraction were not heterosexual.

Coming to San Francisco in the early 1970s was a wonderland of freedom. Sexual freedom for homosexuals was a hot topic. We found ourselves expressing connection with each other in ways that were heightened by the unusual times of the “hippie era.” When Harvey Milk was elected and then assassinated nine months later, it became a double duty to assess the damage and try to re-assemble the momentum that had built up to those historic years. Mobilization was occurring at many levels to keep the community together, vibrant, and on track to establish basic human rights for our group.

Then AIDS began to show up. First, it was confusing, then saddening, then frightening. Daily reminders of the devastation met us on every block; gaunt friends, barely able to walk any longer were seen all around us. Friends, who just a few days, weeks or months before had appeared healthy, were no disappearing at an accelerated pace. During the next several years, the time moved as if we were all caught in a slow motion movie. Obituaries took up four, five, or more pages in the Bay Area Reporter each week.

After joining Shanti emotional support training in 1984 or so, after hearing of a friend’s death, and volunteering as a counselor for a couple of years, I began to feel a quickening in my own body that could not be ignored. Fear called me to take a break and I retired to the Big Sur coast for nine months. I had been HIV+ since 1980. By 1996, after being what was termed “a slow progressor,” I basically collapsed two days after arriving in San Jose for a Christmas visit with friends. I spent three weeks in the hospital: MAC, PP, Cryptococcal Meningitis. The first week, I was given a 50/50 chance to survive. After that, the drugs began to work and I was eventually released.

At the time of my release, January 1997, the cocktail had been out probably no more than 6 months. I was lucky. It stopped the virus in me from replicating and I’ve been virally undetectable ever since. After spending a couple of weeks on my friend’s couch and being taken care of, I was up and on the way to the health I experience today.

There is no easy path to this place. It’s been a touch and go, hope and fear process throughout. I applaud the attitudes of today that have evolved. Having a country turn its back on me was never a betrayal that I could understand. We still have a long way to go to meet the challenges of today’s world.

What was accomplished in San Francisco or New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, was nothing less than a major breakthrough for the persons of a different sexual orientation. May this inclusion of a diverse population into the mainstream of society never cease. I applaud all who are living with terminal diseases. It disrupts a life in a way no one can understand unless they experience it. Those around us who are not going through this also need acknowledgment for the stress and love they are called to give. No one signs up for these things, but they definitely happen.

Peace-filled energy to all of us.

March 10, 2016

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

This post, in honor of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 10th) comes from Maria Eugenia Lane of NHCOA. This post originally appeared on the Diverse Elders Coalition blog on March 10, 2016. Read the original post here.

Women and girls are often an overlooked population in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Yet, about one-quarter of Americans living with HIV are women and girls. Tragically, many of these women and girls are youth or older adults. Today, about 26% of new HIV diagnoses are youth aged 13-24 and about 25% of those living with HIV are adults aged 55 and older.

The importance in preventing HIV among women and girls is recognized each year on March 10 through the National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day. It is important for the health and happiness of women and girls nationwide that they are empowered to make decisions that will protect them from HIV/AIDS, including abstinence, protection and testing.

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Diverse women and girls and older women often do not know that they are vulnerable to infection with HIV. These populations especially need to be informed about HIV and the steps to take to protect oneself from infection.

Cristina, Nina for short, for example was an independent teenager with a mind of her own. She wanted to be free and so rebelled against her parents and did whatever she wanted. Only her grandmother could get her to listen, although Nina did not always take her Grandmother’s advice seriously. She thought her Grandmother was old-fashioned. Her Grandmother was worried about Nina, so she talked to her repeatedly about the importance of protecting herself against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Nina dismissed her Grandmother’s advice because her Grandmother’s stress on abstinence as the best way to protect herself from HIV and other STD’s. One day, however, Nina was talking with her friend’s boyfriend when he confided in her that he was HIV positive and he did not know how to tell his girlfriend. Nina was frightened as she thought that this could be happening to her. Her Grandmother’s advice came flooding back. She told her friend’s boyfriend that he must tell his girlfriend and begin to use protection on the counsel of a doctor. She also realized that caring for oneself is more important than anything else. She was so impacted by this lesson that she decided to work with girls of her age to educate them on how to be free and independent while respecting themselves and protecting themselves from HIV.

If you are a woman or girl, love yourself and take action to protect yourself from HIV!

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition. Photo courtesy of Adam Jones. https://www.flickr.com/photos/adam_jones

December 1, 2015

By 2020, 70% of Those Living With HIV Will be 50 or Older

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Did you know that 50% of those living with HIV are age 50 or older? By 2020, that number will grow to 70%. 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. Research also finds that over 50% of adults age 65-74 and 26% of age 75-85 are sexually active with more than one partner. But ageist misconceptions, combined with poor sexual health education, contribute to the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS in elders and stall prevention efforts. 

On this World AIDS Day, and every day, SAGE is committed to providing services and support to our elders living with HIV/AIDS, working with our partners to promote policy changes on the national level, as well as continuing to educate the public on the issues surrounding HIV and aging

One major announcement that hits close to SAGE's main office in New York City is Governor Cuomo seeking an additional $200 million dollars in New York state funding to help those with HIV/AIDS, SAGE hopes that Cuomo achieves his goal of eradicating HIV/AIDS in New York by 2020 and applauds his request for additional funding.

In other national news, the University of California San Francisco is set to receive a $20 million grant to find a cure for AIDS over the next five years. It’s part of a $100 million effort by the American Foundation for AIDS Research or amfAR, to fund the most promising research that could lead to curing AIDS. SAGE Center Harlem Community Liaison and star of Before You Know It Ty Martin states "Who would imagine that 35 years later that there would be a cure on the horizon? For our LGBT elders who lived through the epidemic to even conceive that such a day would come is amazing.” 

SAGE Care Manager Bill Mendez also shares his message on World AIDS Day in a video he shot for YouTube. Bill currently runs an HIV support group and was instrumental in starting a group for long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS at SAGE.

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.

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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

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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.