Older adults living with HIV are expressing high levels of anxiety. Uncertainty drives that anxiety. As the finite nature of life comes into focus, older adults with HIV face the uncertainty of their health. They exhibit higher rates of illnesses associated with aging, especially cardiovascular disease, cancers and diabetes. Most do not have access to the coordinated geriatric-based care they need as they die from non-HIV/AIDS conditions. They are socially isolated by stigma that fuels their high rates of unmanaged depression. Most have no one, no community, with whom to share to help dispel and blunt the oppression of uncertainty. And now the COVID-19 virus enters, pushing that uncertainty into the extremes.
But these are the Long-Term Survivors of another epidemic that remains in our communities The HIV epidemic has greyed, its community dynamism sapped by time and loss of purpose. End AIDS efforts divert precious community fellowship, human attention, and needed human touch. The AIDS epidemic is rapidly forgotten by the forces of ageism and the loss of both community and political will – to care. That chasm of need must be addressed again. The AIDS Service Organizations will need to partner with and learn from CBOs experienced in providing supportive services for the growing older adult communities.
The older adult living with HIV has demonstrated a resiliency that has allowed them to look beyond the uncertainty that an HIV/AIDS diagnosis imparts. They will need that resiliency even more. And maybe they can share with all of us how we too can overcome the uncertainty of tomorrow.
By: Stephen Karpiak PhD
Director National Resource Center on HIV and Aging
Senior Director for Research at GMHC