Making a Media Noise on World AIDS Day

People just don’t know. They think it’s gone. The only way it will ever go away is by educating, people speaking out, making it a media noise. And I think that’s the only cure.
–Anna Fowlkes, age 64, Baltimore, MD

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, and yesterday was World AIDS Day; not surprisingly, there was a lot of AIDS talk in the air (and in the media) over the last 48 hours. has links to much of the more general coverage of the day, including a transcript of President Obama’s speech, presented at George Washington University yesterday morning.

What follows is a brief summary of some of the main coverage that speaks to older adults and HIV/AIDS.

  • HIV Specialist Magazine, the journal of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, devoted its current issue to HIV and aging and used this opportunity to release the much needed clinical treatment strategies it developed with a team of experts from around the country through the HIV & Aging Consensus Project.  The Graying of AIDS is proud to have played a role in bringing the faces and voices of some of our featured participants – Anna, Bill, Ronald, and Sue – to the issue as well, which can be downloaded for free from the organization’s website.
  • The Graying of AIDS began as a story visual journalist Katja Heinemann pitched to Time Magazine for the 25th anniversary of the epidemic, so we are thrilled to have been featured by Time once again, this time as part of their Lightbox photo blog featuring long term documentary projects.
  • Daniel Tietz, Executive Director of ACRIA, wrote a piece for The Huffington Post that highlights some of the critical research, education, and advocacy work ACRIA has conducted related to aging and HIV over the years, including their role in the creation of the HIV & Aging Consensus Project’s important new treatment guidelines. If you are not yet familiar with the ground-breaking work of this organization, it’s a must-read.
  • When smaller, local media outlets addressed HIV and aging in their coverage, including reports like this one from a North Carolina Fox affiliate, they often offered a local spin on the phenomenon and cited one or more of the striking statistics to come out of aging and HIV research and the work of organizations like ACRIA, including:
    • By 2015 or 2017 (depending on the source), over half of all people living with HIV in the US will be over 50, wonderful evidence of the power of treatment to extend and improve the lives of people living with the virus. At the same time,
    • One in six new HIV diagnoses are in adults over 50;
    • Nearly one quarter of all new AIDS cases in 2009 were among adults aged 50+.
    • Because of delays in testing and diagnosis, older adults are more likely to receive concurrent HIV and AIDS diagnoses than their younger counterparts.
  • Without specifically focusing on the over-50 set, reported on the current health problems confronting many people living longer with HIV/AIDS in Hawaii. Citing the most recent research by the Hawai’i Center for AIDS, the article referenced both health challenges that have received (relatively) greater attention in the media, such as “premature aging,” cognitive impairment, heart disease, and kidney disease, and less frequently discussed health challenges, like diabetes and the lasting affects of earlier generations of AIDS drugs.
  • The National Rehabilitation Information Center posted a brief article acknowledging that aging with HIV can introduce unique complications to the treatment of a variety of aging-related conditions, and shared a link to a list of over 30 citations that explore these concerns in greater depth.
  • In a piece for Edge Boston, River Huston took the conversation away from the clinical and towards the personal when she wrote about how her perspective on her body has shifted throughout her life, and how aging and her HIV diagnosis have – and have not  –  had an effect on the body insecurities so many people struggle with from day to day. (Edge Boston is a local chapter of the Edge network, which offers LGBT news and entertainment from portals in major metropolitan areas around the US and beyond.)
  • Global Action on Aging praised what it perceives as the gradual shift in depictions of older adults in popular culture to include more nuanced – and sexual – older adult characters, in the hopes that this will help to decrease the stigma that often gets in the way of frank discussions between older adults and care providers about risk behaviors that put rapidly increasing numbers of older adults worldwide at risk for infection.
  • Finally, in one of the larger stories to hit the wires yesterday, CNN ran a report on HIV/AIDS among the elderly in China, where adults over 50 made up almost 15% of all new HIV diagnoses at the end of 2009, almost double the percentage reported just four years earlier.
UPDATE (12/4/11): Some additional articles of note have surfaced in the last few days, including Andrew Hart’s piece for Primary Care Progress on shifting models of care for the treatment of older adults living with HIV; Gotham Gazette’s take on the history and aging of the epidemic with a local New York spin; and this report from Hometown Annapolis that includes Carolyn Massey’s suggestion that, “If you’re someone who’s had sex since the Mayflower was on the water, get an HIV test.” In a move that will hopefully help spread the word to care providers who need to hear it, Clinical Geriatrics Today picked up Daniel Tietz’s piece for The Huffington Post.  Maryland Morning created an extended radio segment on aging and HIV in general and in the state of Maryland in particular. And CBC News Canada offers up this article that cites concerns that the dramatic increase in older adults living (and living longer) with HIV might inadvertently be contributing to a younger generation that no longer views HIV as a serious threat; they also produced a radio exploration of the graying of the epidemic.