On HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, Sept. 18, a Gilead-sponsored webinar, "Aging with HIV/AIDS: Advocacy Initiatives Focused on a Healthier Future," took place featuring remarks by ACRIA Center on HIV and Aging at GMHC Research Senior Director Stephen Karpiak, Latino Commission on AIDS Capacity Building, Research and Evaluation Director David Garcia, NMAC ( formerly National Minority AIDS Council ) Treatment Director Moises Agosto and SAGE Care Management Director Tom Weber.
ACRIA, Latino Commission on AIDS, NMAC and SAGE's work has focused on older individuals living with HIV. Gilead Sciences provided funding to each of the organizations specifically to help conduct projects in support of communities aging with HIV.
Moderator Jeff Bloch spoke about how critical it is to identify and work to address the challenges that aging LGBT people with HIV face. Bloch said people with HIV are living longer than ever before and over half of people living with HIV are 50-plus years old and by 2030 that number is going to increase to over 70 percent. Some of the issues this population are facing include depression, isolation, stigma and managing aging-related health problems. This is the generation who survived the early AIDS epidemic of the '80s and early '90s so much of their peer group has already died of the disease.
Karpiak outlined the results of ACRIA's Research on Older Adults with HIV Study ( ROAH ) in 2006 which was the first study of its kind. He said the study found that over 50 percent reported they had depression, feeling lonely was higher among those with HIV than the rest of the aging population and less than half of the participants had told their family members about their HIV status.
ACRIA is currently doing an expanded ROAH study called 2.0, Karpiak said, which includes more geographic areas and a wider, more diverse population sample. What they have learned through these studies, Karpiak explained, is that people with HIV do not have emotional and daily support as well as many aging service providers do not know enough to meet the needs and challenges of people living with the disease. Karpiak said that ACRIA is working with the Latino Commission on AIDS to recruit Latinx people for the ROAH 2.0 study.
Garcia said the Latinx community ( made up of multiple ethnicities and cultures from many other countries ) are one of the nation's fastest growing population and are disproportionately impacted by HIV. He explained that the key insights and takeaways from their 2016 study is that Latinx people with HIV have a fear and mistrust of healthcare providers, community members, family and friends that cause them to hide their status; depression and anxiety; comorbidities ( existence of HIV and another chronic disease or condition ) and a lack of treatment adherence.
Addressing the barriers that aging Latinx people with HIV face, Garcia said they include increasing bilingual, culturally responsive healthcare services; more research on social determinants of health, HIV stigma and discrimination; creating social opportunities to decrease their isolation and depression and adding policy and programming initiatives that will result in more positive outcomes.
Agosto spoke about NMAC's HIV 50+ Strong and Healthy initiative to get aging people with HIV to reignite the passion for advocacy they had when the disease was first discovered. He said this includes empowering them and creating new programming that they will lead so their voices can be heard by the wider population.
Weber explained that SAGEPositive is a part of SAGE's Care Management Program focused on LGBT older adults living with HIV. SAGEPositive, Weber said, offers support groups, social services, education and wellness workshops, social engagement and partnerships with other community organizations. Weber explained that the key objectives are to educate the wider aging population about the challenges facing LGBT elders with HIV and increasing cultural competency for people working with the aging HIV-positive LGBT population.
Gilead's Darwin Thompson unveiled a community impact program called HIV Age Positively. The program will assist with funding opportunities to help outside organizations create a variety of initiatives to address the aging population who have HIV. He also spoke about HIV The Long View which is exploring future health and well-being trends and how they will impact HIV prevention and care.