SunServe recently hosted an HIV/AIDS Seniors Conference. About 100 people attended. People with HIV now can live well past. Other people over 50 acquire HIV for the first time. Most of the audience had lived for HIV for over 20 years.
The Florida Department of Health Broward (FLDOH-Brow) has reported HIV data for Broward as of Feb. 28. Of all people living with HIV, 54.3 percent have lived to 50 or above. That 54.3 percent hides racial and gender differences. Among Latino males with HIV, 44.3 percent lived to 50 or above. Among White males with HIV, 67.2 percent lived to 50 or above.
In Broward, among those who received positive test results for the first time in 2017, 25.4 percent were over 50. In contrast, only 9.7 percent of those newly diagnosed with HIV were under 25.
FLDOH-Brow does not report this data for the transgender population.
David Fawcett PhD, local health advocate and therapist, presented the main themes of the conference, such as stigma, shame, and the risk for social isolation. Fawcett argued that talking about older people as sexual beings makes some people, including providers, uncomfortable.
According to Fawcett, between one-third and one-half of all people with HIV have depression, anxiety disorder, or both. Many people with HIV report feeling like “damaged goods.”
Cornelius Scannell M.D., of Holy Cross Medical Group. reported that some newly diagnosed people felt shame upon diagnosis. They felt that they should have known better than to become infected.
Older people living with HIV have high risk for social isolation. Deaths during the 80s and 90s shredded families-of-choice. One person attending the conference described himself as “socially anorexic.”
Fawcett pointed out that the situation for older LGBT people will worsen in the future. The Trump Administration has stopped collecting data about the needs of older LGBT people. If the needs of LGBT people remain unknown, attention and resources cannot follow.
Bruce Richman, of the Prevention Access Campaign, spoke about fear. Richman argued that agencies magnify the transmission risk for people with viral suppression. That magnification leads to fear and increases stigma. Viral suppression occurs when two successive tests find less than 200 copies of the virus.
Richman argued that research shows that transmission risk had become negligible for the virally suppressed. As a result the Prevention Access Campaign began the Undetectable = Untransmittable (“U=U”) campaign. About 145 organizations and agencies have signed on to that campaign.
Shawn Newman, local attorney, discussed the importance of end-of-life planning. Incapacity can strike anyone. If someone fails to name a legal guardian, in the event of incapacity, “family-friendly” Florida designates the family-of-origin as legal guardian. If the family-of-origin has died out, Florida will appoint a guardian. They will make all medical, legal, and financial decisions for the incapacitated person. In the event of death, the guardian will dispose of all property. A Broward County Domestic Partnership does not constitute legal guardianships.
Patrice Paladino and Kara Schickowski of the Legal Aid Society of Broward discussed the services that it provides free for low-income people. They provide help with legal issues about Ryan White Care, immigration, housing, and end-of-life planning.
This conference introduced issues facing older people living with HIV. As more people with HIV live normal life spans, aging issues will increase in importance.
For information on the U=U campaign, please visit www.preventionaccess.org/undetectable
For information on Broward Legal Aid, please visit www.browardlegalaid.org/
For more information on older people and HIV, please visit Sunserve.org/hivseniors or follow #HIVSeniors on twitter.
Follow Sean McShee on Twitter @SeanMcShee