HIV: A New Challenge For Aging Adults

Grandma didn't see this video
Grandma didn't see this video
Grandma didn't see this video
Evolving drug cocktails and treatment modes have changed HIV from a certain death sentence into a long-term health care challenge. Here in Missouri, about half of the people living with the disease are older than 45.

"We're seeing, for the first time, this actively aging cohort [of people with HIV]," says Sherrill Wayland, executive director of SAGE Metro St. Louis, a nonprofit that addressed the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as they age.

To help assess and address the needs of this emerging population, SAGE is teaming with the New York-based AIDS Community Research Initiative of America to study aging HIV-positive folks in the St. Louis area and determine how to best serve them by implementing ACRIA's HIV and Aging Capacity Building Program.

"You're seeing people who've been living with HIV for 10, 20, 30 years," Wayland tells Daily RFT. "How do we support our retirement and home-care agencies that have not traditionally supported people with HIV long-term?"

The program, which kicks off Friday, will be led by Hanna Tessema with ACRIA. After Friday's assessment meeting, two two-day training sessions will be scheduled, and one person who goes through the sessions will head to New York for mentoring. Concerned community members, older people living with HIV and health-care providers are welcome to attend the free sessions.

Another challenge the trainings will address is newly-infected older adults. After all, most people older than 40 or so weren't in school when the epidemic first started grabbing the nation's attention, and didn't catch TLC's condom eye-patch awesomeness. For that population, Wayland says, condoms were only for preventing pregnancy -- not a concern for the nursing home set, generally.

"We've created this environment where we like to believe older adults are asexual," she says.

But they aren't.

"We're seeing older adults being newly diagnosed with HIV. How do we provide preventative education to older adults?" Wayland asks. "Are retirement communities providing education? Condoms? There is a large-scale education that needs to take place for older adults."

If you're interested in looking at these questions and helping find the answers, RSVP for this training Friday by emailing [email protected]. Friday's meeting is from 10 a.m. to noon at the Tower Grove Manor Retirement Apartments at 2710 South Grand Boulevard.
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