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The Washington Post recently reported that people with HIV are living into their 50s, 60s and beyond. The article states that “nearly 11% of the 50,000 new infections each year are in people 50 or older. The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that this group makes up 33% of all people living with HIV — a percentage that will increase to more than 50 percent by 2020.”
One LeadingAge member, St. Mary’s Center in New York, specializes in the care of people with HIV and AIDS with residents that range in age from 34 to 82 years of age. Since opening their doors 20 years ago, they have witnessed this disease transition from a “death sentence” to a chronic and often manageable health condition.
CEO and LeadingAge Board Member Holly Argent-Tariq points out that “residents who are HIV positive and aging, coupled with a myriad of co-morbidities (hypertension, diabetes, and dementia) require staff with boundless energy, genuine love for the jobs they do and the ability to treat everyone with dignity and respect.”
She recommends increased awareness and education for all ages, including older adults, around HIV. “It can be as simple as asking about your resident’s sexual history and creating more opportunities to educate them on safe sexual practices could make a big difference,” Argent-Tariq said.
Pattye Sawyer, vice president of community health programs at Suncoast Hospice, who oversees Suncoast’s AIDS Service Association of Pinellas (ASAP) program, said the most important thing we can do is ask questions and avoid making assumptions about the behaviors of older adults. Her experience being part of the Leadership Academy visit to Village Care’s Rivington House in the summer of 2011 further informed her perspective on how LeadingAge members can serve adults with HIV/AIDS.
Sawyer advocates for LeadingAge members to “be a resource for your community, and continue to reach out to your residents. Consider partnering with local AIDS Service Organizations (ASO) to offer testing to this often excluded segment of the population."
She also asks the question, “if not us, who?”