26 posts categorized "HIV & Aging"

October 21, 2016

Walking on the Backs of Those Who Died

By Pat Lin

Years after the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaged millions of lives, survivors carry on the stories of their loved ones and search for hope that a cure will be found. Photographer Lester Blum and Creative Director Vladimir Rios talk with SAGE about their works, “Warrior of Hope” and “I Still Remember,” both currently on exhibit at SAGE Center Midtown.

Remembrance 1

SAGE: Can you talk about the process behind creating your exhibits? What are similar themes throughout, and how are they in conversation with each other?

Blum: The similar theme is that they are both works of social implication. “Warrior” and “I Still Remember” are both about HIV and AIDs from slightly different perspectives. They both honor people who have passed. They are really designed as educational tools to increase awareness, to tell the younger generation what actually transpired.

Rios: Not only social implications but something everyone can relate to, not just the LGBT community. We happen to be gay, but every single aspect of our work has been tailored to society in general, not just gay society. Throughout all the work you see straight and gay people, you see people of color, minorities—a wide variety of people. We try to create something universal that everyone can relate to, either immediately or maybe with a little push. HIV is a hard subject for people to deal with even today. 

Blum: The themes are really universal. For example, “Warrior of Hope”—everybody needs hope, no matter what issues they have. The Warrior offers this hope. “I Still Remember”—if you really break down the story behind the exhibit, it’s about love, devastation and remembrance. The two main characters just happen to be male. The loss could be anything—cancer, age, or a car accident. It’s a universal story.

Rios and Lester

SAGE: In both of your works you two portray nude, older bodies. What does it mean to represent a body type not often seen in the mainstream?

Rios: We presented the nakedness in different shapes and sizes because naked is naked. Everyone is beautiful in different ways. We don’t all have “Chelsea boy” bodies. There’s a lot more to our society than being a “Chelsea boy.” We are all different—ages, color, body shapes; it doesn’t matter.

Blum: In “Warrior,” there was one man who was 82, and then a couple in their 70s. That whole 28-year-old “Chelsea boy” body perfection takes away the seriousness of the projects. It becomes a pretty calendar but it’s not reality. You do a scene like those presented in “Warrior of Hope” and “I Still Remember” with only “Chelsea boys,” and there would be no message presented.

Rios When it came to “I Still Remember,” the explicit nudity in some of the photographs was necessary to convey a message. We went to a sex club and filmed a sex scene. It’s just like the needles in the drug segment. Everything was real. We photographed it on the streets. When I did the doctor’s office scene, the doctor actually drew blood. I did everything as real as possible. It was done in this manner because I wanted to keep my integrity as an artist.

Conversation Moment

SAGE: This is an intergenerational collaboration. Can you speak to the ways your differences contributed to your work?

Rios: It’s weird to explain. Lester just turned 70. I just turned 46. It’s funny because every time we do a project we are in tune with the vision. Because we are best friends, we do a lot of things together. We have a similar thought process while often approaching projects from different perspectives.

Blum: I just think we bring different elements from our backgrounds together. It enriches the experience and the projects. Besides age, we come from two completely different backgrounds and heritages. Rios was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He worked for many years as a social worker, which gave him insight into the thinking of many individuals from all walks of life. Therefore he brings a different cultural and social heritage to the table. I was born in New York, raised in Texas, returned to New York over 40 years ago. My background was in the fashion industry, which gave me an artistic understanding and the ability to comprehend the corporate environment. This diversity of culture, upbringing, and work experiences mesh together, allowing us to create the strongest projects we can. If two people are actually listening to each other, which we consciously try to do, it widens the perspective. That is often a problem, particularly in my generation. They don’t want to listen. They are too set in their ways and thinking.

Scanning The World

SAGE: What do you think a commemorative piece that goes back into history tells us about moving forward?

Blum: I’m not so sure whether it tells us much about moving forward as much as it tells us what transpired. “I Still Remember” is a capsule of life during the pandemic of AIDS. It shows how an entire generation was lost. It teaches those 25 and younger that they’re basically walking on the backs of those who died. What happened during that ten-year span of time enabled those who followed to be the people they are today, even with all of today’s struggles. The younger generation can’t be complacent. They can’t just sit back. They can’t just pop PrEP and say that everything is fine. It’s still not. The disease is still here. People are still sick.

Rios: The exhibits are something for people to move forward with. We want people who are moving forward to stop for a moment and rethink their choices. We want people to witness the past so that they will think about their choices for the future.

Blum: You can’t just discount the past, like it didn’t exist. As long as someone can tell the story, the people aren’t really gone. They’re remembered.

Both exhibitions will move on to the LGBTQ Center of Durham, North Carolina, and to The Loft in White Plains, New York, for World AIDS Day 2016. See more of Lester Blum’s photography at http://www.lesterblumphotography.com.

September 23, 2016

SAGE and ASA Co-Host #LGBTGenerations Panel


When the American Society on Aging (ASA) decided to focus the Summer 2016 issue of Generations on LGBT aging, it marked a milestone in the march toward visibility and respect for LGBT elders.

On September 21, SAGE CEO Michael Adams joined other authors in the issue for a special panel discussion co-hosted by SAGE and ASA in New York. Adams' article "An Intersectional Approach to Services and Care for LGBT Elders" considers the unique strengths and challenges of LGBT elders.

Connect with Michael Adams on Twitter and see the event recap on Storify to learn more about why he believes practitioners and policymakers must bring an intersectional analysis to their work. Do you have thoughts on the subject? Join the conversation on social media with #LGBTGenerations!

September 18, 2016

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day 2016

In March, SAGE commemorated National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and for HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day in June, we paid tribute to our LGBT elders living with HIV. Today, we commemorate National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day to recognize the profound effect that HIV/AIDS has on all ages, including LGBT elders.

Currently, more than half of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S. are over the age of 50. By the year 2020, more than 70% of Americans living with HIV will be age 50 or older, and 18% of new HIV diagnoses occur among people over 50. While HIV has become more like managing a chronic disease, many long-term survivors are facing new crises that affect their physical, mental and financial well-being. It’s important that we recognize and appreciate the trials and triumphs of our brothers and sisters living with HIV.

The Diverse Elders Coalition has a number of resources available about HIV and aging, including the infographic, "Facts and Factors: Diverse Elders and HIV." This year’s theme for HIV Long-Term Survivors Day was "Moving Forward Together." Let’s take this unifying message to heart as we celebrate the lives of those we have lost, and those who live and continue to inspire us today. 

June 9, 2016

Celebrating LGBT Heroes of Pride

It’s the first full week of Pride Month 2016 and the LGBT community is off to an exciting start. On May 31st, President Obama proclaimed June as LGBT Pride Month, calling upon the country to "eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people." SAGE is grateful for this special recognition of a longtime tradition that's brought the LGBT community together.

During Pride Month with celebrations nationwide, the LGBT community and its allies remember the historic Stonewall Riots that happened in New York City in 1969. This year is particularly special, as we mark the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Obergefell marriage decision.

Join SAGE as we recognize the Heroes of Pride — LGBT trailblazers who have fought long and hard to make a better life for all of us — and reaffirm our love for friends, family and each other. If you’re in the New York area, please join us for these upcoming Pride events, and visit our SAGENet Affiliate websites to find out how you can celebrate in a city near you.

Brooklyn Pride: Saturday, June 11
Harlem Pride: Saturday, June 25
Manhattan Pride: Sunday, June 26
Bronx Pride: Saturday, July 16

If you missed our booth at Queens Pride on June 5, here's a photo of SAGE staff spreading the love:

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Visit our Pride 2016! photo album on Facebook

Other important tributes in June:

On Saturday, June 4, to kick off the summer season, SAGE held its 24th Annual Celebration in the Pines, honoring Eric Sawyer, Linda Gottlieb, Marc Cote & Jay Henry. See photos on Facebook.

On Sunday, June 5, for HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day, we paid tribute on social to LGBT elders living with HIV. Today more than half of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S. are over the age of 50. While HIV has become more like managing a chronic disease, many long-term survivors are facing new crises that affect their physical, mental and financial well-being. Follow the conversation and show your support on social media with #‎LongTermSurvivors.

On Friday, June 10, the Chicago-based National Board Members of SAGE will host its annual SAGE & Friends reception, where SAGE will honor U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley, co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Caucus, for his advocacy on behalf of LGBT rights and his support of issues impacting older individuals. SAGE will also recognize Phyllis Johnson and Torlene "Toi" Williams for their pioneering Affinity Community Services' Trailblazers, and for their grassroots advocacy on behalf of LGBT older adults in Chicago.

'Legends' gather for the exhibition reception at Leslie-Lohman.

Also this month, SAGE is celebrating our LGBT elders of color with a series of powerful yet understated photographs of unsung Black LGBTQ 'legends,' now on display through August 12 at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York. Read more and see images from the project here.

In the words of President Obama:

This journey, led by forward-thinking individuals who have set their sights on reaching for a brighter tomorrow, has never been easy or smooth.  The fight for dignity and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is reflected in the tireless dedication of advocates and allies who strive to forge a more inclusive society.  They have spurred sweeping progress by changing hearts and minds and by demanding equal treatment -- under our laws, from our courts, and in our politics.  This month, we recognize all they have done to bring us to this point, and we recommit to bending the arc of our Nation toward justice.

Stay tuned this month for Pride 2016 updates and follow the SAGE blog as we celebrate LGBT Heroes Of Pride in June and beyond. Follow and share on social with hash tag #HeroesOfPride.


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


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.” 


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.


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


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.