AIDS AND AGING: A REALITY THAT DEMANDS OUR ATTENTION

Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of NHCOA

Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of NHCOA

The AID Institute’s 7th annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD) will be observed September 18, 2014 with the theme “Aging is a part of life; HIV doesn’t have to be!” For more information about HIV/AIDS and older Americans or to become involved with the campaign, visit www.NHAAAD.org.

Among diverse communities, the stigma of HIV is a cause of shame, embarrassment, and worse of all, denial and silence. When denial and silence are present, the lack of communication and information lead to myths and misinformation. Worst of all, silence results in increased infections and is inevitably compounded by stigma, which leads to people living with HIV who are undiagnosed and therefore, untreated.

In the U.S. alone, 1 out of 6 persons is unaware s/he is HIV positive. The reality is that older Americans are just at risk of HIV infection as younger age groups are.

[Learn more HIV statistics in the United States]

In fact, adults 55 years and older represented nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population living with HIV in 2010. The CDC estimates that by next year (2015), this number will double, which means that half of the people living with HIV in this country will be 50 years and older. There are several reasons why older Americans who are HIV+ may not be aware of their status:

  • HIV tests aren’t always included as part of the check up routine, and seniors tend to think they don’t know need to ask for one;
  • The signs of HIV/AIDS can be mistaken for the aches and pains of normal aging;
  • Older adults are less likely to discuss their sex lives or drug use with loved ones or a health care provider;
  • Myths and misinformation that lead seniors to believe that they are “too old” to get infected;
  • Lack of targeted public education*.

However, we should not only be concerned with reducing HIV infections among the older adult population.

Medical advances have allowed people with HIV who get treated— and stay in treatment— to lead longer, healthier lives. Yet, the success of these new treatments and the increased longevity of patients have led to new challenges to the proper prevention and care of older Americans living with HIV, especially those who are from diverse communities. There is a lack of research aimed at aging with HIV, as well as few prevention campaigns, clinical guidelines, demonstration projects and training initiatives targeting older adults living with HIV, particularly diverse seniors. While the Affordable Care Act does include provisions to support people living with HIV/AIDS, including older Americans, the public policy landscape is scarce when it comes to seniors and HIV/AIDS.

[Related content: Learn how the ACA is helping older Americans living with HIV.]

Older Americans with HIV are often excluded from major legislation, policy initiatives and programs— from the White House Conference on Aging, to the Older Americans Act and the Ryan White CARE Act, to the Medicaid expansion, and more.

Left unaddressed, generations of older adults with HIV/AIDS will lack the supports they need to age with dignity and in the best health possible. This is why the Diverse Elders Coalition in collaboration with ACRIA (AIDS Community Research Initiative of America) released 8 recommendations that have the potential of dramatically improving the lives of diverse seniors, and all older Americans, living with HIV.

What you can do on National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

* To combat this, NHCOA is a partner of the CDC’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, which is focused on reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS among diverse communities. Through culturally and linguistically appropriate, and age sensitive outreach and education, NHCOA conducts HIV outreach and education among Hispanic older adults and families to dissipate the stigma and silence.

Additional Resources

www.cdc.gov/hiv

www.aids.gov

www.hhs.gov/ash/ohaidp

www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/AoA_Programs/HPW/HIV_AIDS

Posted by Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA). The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

One last push – Getting the Older Americans Act (OAA) reauthorized in 2014

August in Washington, DC usually means Congressional recess, when all Congress members take a break from Washington and return to their districts. Depending on whom you ask, August in DC could either be a peaceful and quiet time or a time to schedule meetings and diligently prepare for Congress’ return post-Labor Day. For the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), it has been the latter. As we enter the last quarter of the year, NHCOA is focusing efforts on scheduling Hill visits to educate Congressional staffers and reiterate how critical it is for Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act as they return to Washington from their states and districts this week.

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is one of the most important laws for older adults, and as it nears its 50th Anniversary, it is in need of greater recognition. The programs of the OAA are also extremely important in allowing older adults to age in place, with dignity, and in the best possible health, as it authorizes a wide variety of programs focused on health, nutrition, job training, and caregiver support. The OAA, which expired in 2011, has not been renewed— or reauthorized— since. Each year, the various programs are funded individually through appropriations bills, but this is neither an efficient nor a sustainable method. Reauthorization is urgently needed!

As we’ve written in previous blogs, NHCOA strongly supports a reauthorization of the Older Americans Act—but it must happen before the end of 2014. While a straight reauthorization would be better than none, it would be more effective to have a reauthorization that accounts for the growing size and diversification of the older adult population and one whose needs are ever fluid and changing.

Thus far, there are four bills on record, asking for reauthorization: H.R. 4122 (Rep. Bonamici- Oregon), H.R. 3850 (Rep. Gibson, New York), S. 1562 (Sen. Sanders- Vermont) and S. 1028 (Sen. Sanders). Of these, S. 1562 is the most advanced in the legislative process, having been sent to committee, where it is currently stuck. It is this impasse that has delayed the much-needed reauthorization of the OAA.

Given that it is an election year and a change in the political climate might make it even harder for a committee compromise to be reached, NHCOA and its fellow Diverse Elders Coalition co-founders urge Congress to take action now before all the hard work put forth in the past year is lost and millions of America’s older adults lose access to programs and services which currently allow them to age in place and remain engaged and active members of their communities.

We ask Congress to take into account the millions of baby boomers who cannot wait for another year of political in-fighting and who urgently need these services in their local communities. While we understand that the list of urging and pressing matters awaiting Congress is long, it is important to highlight that OAA is equally as important to those whom it affects most, and through compromise and strong Congressional leadership, this Act can be reauthorized within the few legislative days left.

In the meantime, NHCOA and the DEC will continue to fight for the OAA on behalf of the millions of diverse seniors who rely on the services, programs, and funding this law provides.

Dr. Yanira Cruz is the President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Related Older Americans Act posts:

What can we do to honor older Americans? Reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA)! (Older Americans Month)

By Aaron Tax, Director of Federal Government Relations at Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).

May is of course Older Americans Month. And given that it is Older Americans Month, what is one of the most important things we can do to honor older Americans? Reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA)! What is that, you ask? It’s probably the most important piece of aging legislation that most people in our country don’t know anything about.

  • Did you know?
    • The OAA originally passed in 1965 as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society?
    • The OAA is one of three big pieces of legislation that form the safety net for older adults in the United States, with Social Security providing income supports, Medicare providing healthcare supports, and the OAA providing the “everything else” that allows older adults to stay at home and age in place in their communities.
    • In fact, the OAA is the primary vehicle for the organization and delivery of social services and supports and nutrition programs for older adults and their caregivers in our country.

Read More

Language, Idioma, 語, ភាសា: Speaking limited English can pose unique challenges for older people

Map of people that speak Spanish at home.  Source: Badger, Emily, “Where 60 Million People in the U.S. Don’t Speak English at Home,” The Atlantic Cities

Map of people that speak Spanish at home. Source: Badger, Emily, “Where 60 Million People in the U.S. Don’t Speak English at Home,” The Atlantic Cities

According to the Census Bureau, about 20% of people speak a language other than English at home. That’s 1 in 5 people! And over the years, this number has only grown. The Census Bureau has developed a map that shows in which parts of the country these people live. What the map shows is that there are people whose preferred language is not English in all but the most sparsely populated parts of the country. Language access is a civil right, and these rights are reflected in federal law. It is also becoming more common to see instructions on packages, advertisements, and other messages translated into languages other than English, as well. When it comes to language access, the policies of the United States promote inclusion.

Despite these efforts at inclusion, accessing many government programs poses unique challenges for older adults with limited English speaking ability. Programs like Medicare Part D (the prescription medication program) and the Affordable Care Act’s health exchanges rely on consumers to choose the plans that will balance value and health coverage. However, there are multiple studies from the implementation of Medicare Part D that state consumers do not choose the most economically efficient options. Most people, particularly those who prefer to speak in a language other than English, could benefit from learning more about their health care options. Read More

The Coalition that Changed the Aging Narrative

Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. Follow him on Twitter.

In December 2010, I took part in a first-time meeting of national aging organizations working with older people of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders.

Over time, this group would form a coalition focused on federal policy reform—the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC)—but what resonated in those initial meetings was a belief that we needed to sort through our individual interests, find multiple points of commonality, and employ a joint advocacy agenda that would profoundly change older people for generations to come.

We knew that a coalition approach was tactically smart; it leveraged our organizational resources and challenged the single-issue orthodoxy that too often shapes the dominant policy rhetoric. This approach also acknowledged our overlapping missions, growing demographics (and societal burdens), and multiple identities. We recognized that our communities shared many of the same political opponents and allies. And our aspirations for joy throughout the lifespan were in many ways similar. We believed that we could both unify and transcend our identity-based politics. Read More

The Re-launch is here!

Two weeks ago, we announced that we would be re-launching the Diverse Elders Coalition Blog.  Read here to find out more.

We are thrilled that this day has finally come. As we previously promised, in addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we will have exciting guest bloggers.  We will also display our content in a variety of different ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.) And much more! Have a suggestion? Contact us.

You can bookmark this page or subscribe to our RSS feed to stay updated. Check back on Wednesday to read our latest post, courtesy of National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA). Until then, enjoy some highlights from the blog’s history:

1) Watch Our Story

2) The Unique Needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander Elders

3) 10 Considerations for Working with the Diversity of Older LGBT Latinos

We are Re-launching On March 18!

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) was founded in 2010, and in July 2012 we launched our official website, which also serves as a news and commentary blog on the social, political and economic issues affecting the growing yet vulnerable demographic of elders who are Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT).In the last eight months, we have put out numerous posts on the issues that affect our communities and the creative ideas and best practices to address them. In the summer of 2012, we also released Securing Our Future: Advancing Economic Security for Diverse Elders, a resource that describes the issues facing elders of color and LGBT elders, who together will represent a majority of older adults in the United States by 2050.

In this time, we have received some wonderful comments on our work, as well as helpful feedback from our readers (all of you) on how to improve the site to better meet your needs—and we listened to you. Members of the Diverse Elders Coalition came together and crafted an exciting plan for moving forward by implementing many of your ideas, which you’ll see starting with our blog re-launch on March 18.  Here are some of the improvements to look forward to:

  • In addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we have some exciting guest bloggers scheduled!
  • Content displayed in a variety of ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.)
  • More news and original content from coalition members
  • And more!

 

As we look forward to March 18, please like us (and tell a friend!) on Facebook to stay updated on the events surrounding the launch and the latest news affecting diverse elders. If you have any questions about DEC or would like to submit an idea for a blog post, please contact us.

See you on the 18th!

To learn more about DEC members, click here.

LGBT Older Americans Cannot Afford to Go Over the Fiscal Cliff

The following is a guest post by George Stewart, SAGE constituent.

Not long ago, the Washington Post reprinted a letter signed by a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) millionaires asking Congress to come to a resolution on the “fiscal cliff” by preventing across-the-board spending cuts to federal programs, preserving tax cuts for the middle class and allowing tax cuts for the wealthiest to expire.  As heartened as I was to see some LGBT voices in the public debate on economic issues, I wondered how many people know how the impending spending cuts will impact a vast majority of LGBT older people throughout the country—people like me.

I have spent much of my life looking for where I fit in, while striving to serve my country and my community. I’ve witnessed intolerance in my life, as well as positive change. In the 1950s, I was a black soldier in a segregated Army unit stationed in the South. I found a lot of camaraderie with the soldiers in my unit, but we always felt that we had to go above and beyond—if another outfit shined the tops of their shoes, we’d shine the bottom of ours. I was stationed last in Louisiana, where one of my most vivid memories is being singled out by a policeman because he thought I was sitting too close to a white woman in a public park. When my enlistment ended in Louisiana, I decided that I would move to New York City.  I hoped my move would lead to better things—an opportunity to be an individual in a big city, instead of being viewed as just a black man inappropriately sitting down next to a white woman. Read More

What the Fiscal Cliff Means for Elder Programs

BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)

Everywhere you turn these days, it seems that you can’t get away from talk of the “fiscal cliff.” As advocates for elders, we too, are concerned with the impending austerity measures and how, if triggered, they will impact funding for programs for our elder generations.

There’s no getting around the fact that if sequestration is allowed to go into effect in January, the resulting non-defense discretionary cuts in FY 2013 will put programs at risk that currently maintain older adults’ independence, health, and well-being. The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), of which SEARAC is a member, has put together a very helpful issue brief on how sequestration would hurt programs that are authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA). By the numbers, these are some highlights of how the cuts would affect elder programs (at 8 percent sequestration): Read More

A Federal Bill for LGBT Elders

Last week, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO ) introduced a bill that could improve supports for millions of LGBT elders through the Older Americans Act. SAGE has been working on this issue for almost three years — from raising awareness and producing policy reports, to hosting Congressional briefings and securing support from the influential Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, to working closely with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and various aging groups in DC.

Read my recent editorial in The Huffington Post about this bill’s importance to LGBT elders. Read More

Introducing the ‘Improving Services and Activities for Diverse Elders Act’

There are many services and supports for older adults available at no cost. Things like home delivered meals, transportation services, and benefits counseling all help older adults live in their own homes and communities and age in dignity. The Older Americans Act (OAA) is the law that provides these services and supports and creates the nation’s infrastructure for aging. It is an invaluable law that helps millions of people each year. Despite the law’s successes and importance, it faces deep budget cuts and is becoming outdated. Read More

An LGBT-Inclusive Older Americans Act

The Older Americans Act (OAA) serves as the country’s leading vehicle for delivering services to older people nationwide, providing more than $2 billion annually in nutrition and social services. Since its enactment in 1965, the OAA has aimed to ensure that older people have the supports they need to age in good health and with broad community support. It places an emphasis on more vulnerable elders who face multiple barriers that can aggravate economic insecurity, social isolation, and various health challenges related to aging.

Yet strangely, despite ample evidence of their heightened vulnerability and their need for unique aging supports, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people are invisible in this landmark law. As the OAA comes up for reauthorization, and as millions of LGBT people enter retirement age, Congress should ensure that the OAA supports all elders, including those who require unique supports. LGBT older adults should be written into the framework of the Older Americans Act.

Read More