New York State Senator Tom Duane joined the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA), New York City Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo, the Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSCS), the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), and other organizations concerned with the growing number of people over 50 infected with HIV in in calling on the City Council to fund a comprehensive HIV prevention and health literacy education initiative focused on the older adult population in New York. Councilmember Arroyo is spearheading a $1 million budget allocation request in the Council.
Senator Duane spoke in support of that proposal both as an older New Yorker living with HIV himself, and as a fierce advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention, education and treatment for all New Yorkers. He noted that stigma and assumptions regarding the elderly, sex, and substance use, as well as confusion about HIV symptoms and age-related illness, are factors contributing to a steady increase in new HIV diagnoses among people age 50 or above in the past five years. He urged the City Council to allocate the funding needed to develop tailored HIV prevention and education messages that target the older adult population; distribute them to places such as senior centers, housing units and community-based senior programs; and train staff, volunteers, and peers about HIV and AIDS and aging.
ACRIA cited the 2005 epidemiology report from the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene shows that 30% (29,193) of persons living with HIV and AIDS in New York City in 2005 were age 50 or above, compared with 21% in 2001. A 2006 landmark study - Research on Older Adults with HIV (ROAH), conducted by ACRIA - demonstrates the disheartening fact that this population has been and continues to be largely ignored and marginalized.
"It is vital that the healthcare system, elected officials, policy makers, and everyone in a position to confront the HIV/AIDS pandemic understand the changing population and the complicated health needs that make up the new face of AIDS," said ACRIA Executive Director Dan Tietz. "Our research paints a stark picture of an aging population that lacks the social support most of us take for granted, and has continuing and chronic age-related illnesses compounded by HIV/AIDS.
The HIV prevention and education materials and strategies produced - targeted to and tailored for older adults - will be rigorously evaluated for impact and effectiveness and revised and improved in keeping with the evaluation. "Our aim," said ACRIA's Tietz, "is to create a user-friendly HIV prevention and education model that can be implemented by other service providers with their senior clients."
He praised Councilwoman Arroyo and Senator Duane, as well as other elected officials for "working with us on this critically important new initiative."