This year's SYNChronicity conference, a national meetup on HIV, hepatitis C, sexually transmitted infections, and LGBT health held in Washington, D.C. and hosted by HealthHIV, shined a spotlight on HIV and aging. It even had a designated track dedicated to the subject, "Generational Health," which was novel in that it looked at both building alliances among various ages along with addressing needs of people older than 50, who represent nearly half of all people living and diagnosed with HIV in the U.S.
This track of workshops discussed themes of social isolation, lack of social support, stigma, and housing insecurity. These issues, combined with what are considered typical signs of aging like cardiovascular disease, dementia, and mobility, made for in-depth discussion. Most speakers presented research that shows the need for these areas to be addressed.
"When we say elders, hopefully that means respect and influence versus old," said Brian Risley, Director of Education and Programs at APLA Health in Los Angeles.
Sixty-three percent of APLA's 15,000 patients are at least 50 years old living with HIV. Risley shared research from APLA Health's Healthy Living Project, a study showing a high rate of both physical and mental health challenges in its series of focus groups. The focus groups -- eight in total -- included men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, and gender nonconforming people. The focus groups, however sorted by race or ethnicity, confirmed that social isolation is a major roadblock to people living with HIV over 50 achieving improved health outcomes, Risley said. Read more via The Body