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As People With HIV Become Elders, Funding and Policies Can Change to Address Their Needs

September 29, 2015

As the advent of antiretroviral therapy has turned HIV from a terminal illness into a chronic one, the proportion of older HIV-positive persons will continue to increase and need targeted services. Of the approximately 1.25 million people with HIV in the U.S., more than 50% of these are already age 50 or older. By 2020, it is projected to reach 70%. This shift in demographics brings a new set of problems, since aging itself is accompanied by various health and social challenges.

Older adults living with HIV need the same services as other older adults, but most such services are not culturally appropriate for LGBT or HIV-positive people, explained Mark Brennan-Ing, Ph.D. of ACRIA, on a recent webinar sponsored by Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), Grantmakers in Aging, Funders Concerned about AIDS (FCAA), Funders for LGBTQ Issues and Grantmakers in Health.

Ben de Guzman of the Diverse Elders Coalition pointed out that today one in five older Americans is a person of color. That proportion is expected to increase to one in three by 2050. The problems people face as they age are compounded by discrimination and racism, making HIV prevention and retention in care even more difficult for this population. De Guzman cited statistics that bear this out: African Americans over 50 are 12 times more likely to have HIV than their white peers; Latinos in that age group are five times more likely to be HIV-positive than whites.


SAGE has a number of policy recommendations for meeting the challenges of the "greying" HIV population, Aaron Tax of that organization explained. In particular:

  • Care, services and support for older adults must be improved;
  • Research on older adults living with HIV, especially key populations, must be improved;
  • Testing rates among this population must be increased through age-specific interventions and culturally appropriate services;
  • Data collection on this subsection of people living with HIV must be improved by including a breakdown by age in statistical reporting.

One way to achieve culturally appropriate help is to fund direct services for this demographic, said Johanna Osburn of the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA). Her foundation is giving money to organizations that break down the isolation of older Americans, provide supportive housing services and nutritional programs, or otherwise have an impact on older people with HIV.

This approach was seconded by Paul A. Di Donato, a trustee of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. His foundation provides grants for the provision of direct services to SAGE, for example, but also to a Medicare rights organization that helps SAGE clients access Medicare services. He believes that funders must work jointly to help bring together money for the various aspects of aging with HIV.

Webinar participants agreed that philanthropic organizations should focus more on the intersection of the various aspects of aging with HIV in order to help this demographic most effectively.

Barbara Jungwirth is a freelance writer and translator based in New York.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @reliabletran.

Copyright © 2015 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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