The Word is Getting Out: People are Talking about Aging and HIV

The last few months have brought some exciting new developments that suggest a growing awareness of the challenges affecting older adults living with HIV/AIDS, and new efforts being made to address some of those challenges. In honor of this 25th annual World AIDS Day (December 1), we thought we’d take a moment to share some of these recent developments with you, along with some of the media coverage they’ve inspired.

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A GRAYING PANDEMIC AND OLDER ADULTS LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS FEATURED IN WORLD AIDS DAY MEDIA COVERAGE

We are delighted to report that our series, A Graying Pandemic, was featured in Bloomberg Businessweek for World AIDS Day, and we have uploaded new, extended edits of some of the interviews we conducted at last year’s International AIDS Conference to our Graying Pandemic tumblr (interviews can be accessed by clicking on individual portraits).

A number of other media outlets have also used World AIDS Day as an opportunity to highlight aging and HIV, including The Bay Area Reporter’s excellent overview by Matthew S. Bajko, which addresses local, domestic, and international shifts in HIV/AIDS demographics (and draws on Graying of AIDS advisory panel member Charles Emlet’s research); a piece in The Body that illustrates how more and more people of all ages are tuning in to the needs of this population; an article in The Huffington Post Los Angeles that indicates that awareness on the local level is on the rise; and a piece for GlobalPost that speaks to increasing awareness around the globe.

It seems likely that the increased attention to older adults living with HIV/AIDS this World AIDS Day is at least partially the result of an uptick in political and media attention to this demographic shift in recent months.

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SAGE’s Michael Adams on Capitol Hill. Ntl. HIV/AIDS & Aging Awareness Day

HIV/AIDS AND AGING MATTERS: IT’S NOT JUST FOR WORLD AIDS DAY ANYMORE

The 6th annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (September 18) was observed in an unusually high-profile way this year, with two related events taking place in our nation’s capital. Our partners ACRIA and SAGE, in collaboration with GMHC, Human Rights Campaign, and National Hispanic Council on Aging, hosted a briefing for U.S. Senate staffers during which a panel of speakers touched on some of the unique challenges facing older adults living with the virus; portraits from our domestic project, The Graying of AIDS, were projected during the briefing to underscore the diversity of people touched by this issue.

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Daniel Tietz of ACRIA, Senate Hearing Testimony on HIV and Aging

Later, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing exploring these issues further that included calls for increased support for HIV prevention, testing, treatment, support services, and research concerning older adults and HIV. It was wonderful to be there as U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Susan Collins (R-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and others spoke to issues that have concerned many of us for a long time, and to support the panelists as they offered their compelling testimony. Video of the hearing and downloadable versions of the testimony presented are available here. Highlights from the day can be found at the links to each of the organizers’ blogs, linked above, and in media coverage from outlets like McClatchy DC and The Kennebec Journal.

September 18th was also the day that The American Academy of HIV Medicine announced that a major grant from the Archstone Foundation will enable them to launch the second phase of their HIV & Aging Consensus Project, which will include the “implementation of an interactive web-based project to seek out and document the real life experiences of HIV care providers treating elder Americans with HIV disease.” We look forward to the wealth of information and diverse perspectives this exciting new project will help bring to light, and recognize the tremendous contribution such a resource could make towards training the HIV/AIDS and aging health care providers of tomorrow.

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Other media coverage from around this time that focused on aging and HIV included pieces in BBC News, The Guardian, The Baltimore Times, POZ magazine, and Positively Aware. A variety of blogs also tackled aging and HIV issues, including Graying advisory panel member Mark Brennan-Ing’s post for the Human Rights Campaign and a piece for The Huffington Post Gay Voices blog by Graying advisory panel member Perry Halkitis, who recently published his new book on “The AIDS Generation” of gay men.

 

GETTING THE MESSAGE ABOUT DATA AND RESEARCH

The call for inclusion of older adults in HIV/AIDS-related data collection and research is having some effect. Earlier this year our allies at ACRIA, HelpAge International, and the Terrence Higgins Trust circulated a world-wide sign-on letter to UNAIDS challenging the organization’s failure to acknowledge HIV and aging in its 2012 annual report; on November 1, the organization responded by releasing a special supplement on HIV and aging (highlights can be found in their web and radio coverage). And HelpAge International is keeping up the pressure on policy makers, donors, and researchers with the release of their new paper, “Including Older Women and Men in HIV Data,” on World AIDS Day .

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What was remarkable these last few months was how the coverage just kept coming. Whether or not there was a particular event being observed, these stories about aging and HIV were reported simply because they were stories worth telling. Additional media coverage in the popular press and community outlets in recent months have included pieces for The Washington Post;  DC-based public radio talk show, The Kojo Nnamdi Show (“Connecting your neighborhood with the world” ); an article about seroconversion among older gay men for Edge on the Net; one longterm survivor’s personal testimonial concerning the depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation he and some of his friends have experienced; and an article in Science Daily on a study that suggests that older positive adults actually respond to the stress and isolation that comes with HIV better than their younger counterparts.

Like the many blogs and media outlets linked to above, organizations that speak directly to frontline healthcare and social service providers like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Healthcare Professionals Network, the American Psychological Association, and US Medicine appear to be tuning into the needs of this population and are helping to get the word out to their constituents.

Here’s hoping this awareness continues to expand in the weeks and months to come.

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