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DC Councilmember-at-Large Proposes Program for Seniors to Learn About HIV

By Candace Y.A. Montague

November 1, 2011

Catania recruits seniors to teach seniors about HIV. Credit:

Catania recruits seniors to teach seniors about HIV. Credit:

DC Council Member at-large David Catania (I) introduced legislation last month to help senior learn more about HIV/AIDS from each other. The Senior HIV/AIDS Education and Outreach Program Establishment Act of 2011 would provide funding for the Department of Health to train seniors to become peer educators on the subject of sexual health and HIV. The educators would present workshops at senior centers, churches, and various gatherings around the city.

People over the age of 50 are becoming the focus of HIV intervention and education strategies recently. This population accounts for 17% of the new HIV diagnoses in 40 states. Here in DC, 7.4% of residents 40-49 years of age and 6.1% of residents 50-59 years of age are actually living with HIV/AIDS. Some seniors who are infected are experiencing difficulty with getting treatment for the virus and are struggling to deal with co-morbidities as well. A recent article written by Bethsheba Johnson, associate medical director of St. Hope Foundation in Houston, Texas, questioned why the Department of Health and Human Services hasn't issued specific guidelines for treatment for adults over the age of 60 who are infected. Johnson wrote, "When you are already starting with that "tired" immune system, older clients need some consideration."

As for the program proposed by Catania, Tanya Bender-Henderson, Faith-based OUtreach coordinator for Damien Ministries, says it's a great idea to have seniors help one another with such a sensitive topic. "The reality is that seniors are having sex and a lot of it, well into their 70s and 80s but may not have been comfortable talking about it [with their doctors] and more than likely are not discussing it with their current sex partners. This initiative will go a long way, intergenerationally, toward helping stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. By and large, our community still has a lot of reverence for our elders."

To read more about the legislation, click here.

Recommended reading:

AIDS and seniors: an interview with Tanya Bender-Henderson

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