Telling Our Stories for World AIDS Day 2016

wad2016_cropEach year on December 1st, we join millions of individuals and organizations around the globe in commemorating World AIDS Day. The prevention of HIV/AIDS – as well as the continued care of those living with HIV – has always been a top priority for the Diverse Elders Coalition and the communities we represent.

In 2014, we released our policy brief, “Eight Policy Recommendations for Improving the Health and Wellness of Older Adults with HIV,” recommendations for which we continue to fight and advocate today. In 2015, we created an infographic, Facts and Factors: HIV and Diverse Elders, to illustrate the impact that HIV has on our communities. And this year, we invite you to browse the stories of elders with HIV in our Diverse Elders Stories Initiative, where we highlight the unique experiences and the common threads between older adults in our communities. Here are a few of the most powerful stories from our archives:

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Vince Crisostomo: I have lived more years with HIV than I have without. My life has been characterized by loss and grief. Each time, you just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and put one foot in front of the other. Read more

 

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Helena Bushong: I was diagnosed with HIV and AIDS in 2002, and was told I would not live more than six months. Along with my doctors, I believe that I was a “late tester,” meaning because I was diagnosed with AIDS—a late stage infection—and not HIV, I likely contracted HIV 15 to 20 years before showing any sign or symptoms. Read more

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Mikael Wagner: Thirty years later, I am still here using the skills that I learned from so many wonderful people to help others to survive. Aging means using all of the experience you’ve acquired along the way and transforming your life into a magical experience to reach new goals. Read more

Healthcare coverage is an important component to living a healthy life with HIV, and programs like the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and Medicare are essential to our communities. A new issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation highlights the value of Medicare to older adults living with HIV. Did you know, for example, that Medicare is the single largest source of federal financing for HIV care and treatment? And while most people with HIV on Medicare qualify because of a disability, a growing number are age 65 and older – meaning that people with HIV are living longer lives and needing HIV-related healthcare into their later years.

Medicare open enrollment is now through December 7th.

And if you’re not yet 65, there is still time to enroll in an ACA health plan through Healthcare.gov! Open enrollment for 2017 health coverage is now through January 31st. Learn more here.

These three resilient, inspiring individuals – and the others found in our Diverse Elders Stories Initiative – are thriving today because of the support systems they built with their families, communities, and healthcare providers. The Diverse Elders Coalition will continue to advocate for healthcare and support for older adults living with HIV, on World AIDS Day and every day. If you have a story to tell, share it with us here!

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.