September 19, 2022
CONTACT: Mariah McGough, firstname.lastname@example.org
VOCAL-NY HONORS NATIONAL HIV/AIDS AND AGING AWARENESS DAY
NEW YORK — Following National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day yesterday (September 18), leaders with VOCAL-NY released the following statements:
“I am an excellent example of a woman who is 60 years strong, leading a full and meaningful life, and I say, HIV/AIDS lives with me – I do not live with it,” said Tracie Adams, a leader with VOCAL-NY’s Positive Leaders Union from Rochester. “When I was diagnosed it was a shame. But now, I will never be ashamed of living a long life, working with people who are committed to ending hiv/aids and in memory of those who have gone before me/us. In New York, about 70% of people living with HIV/AIDS are over the age of 50. We must continue to address and meet the specific needs of our communities with housing, healthcare, testing for and correct diagnosis for elders, particularly women over 55.”
“When I was first diagnosed in 1996, shame was a big part of it. We stigmatize ourselves more than other people do,” said Pedro Benitez, a VOCAL-NY leader from Rochester. “That exacerbates everything and prevents people from receiving care that is so critical to living a full life. As a man who will be 50 in November and a leader in the HIV/AIDS movement, I would like people to know that we are living long and productive lives. I am a leader who is working to get rid of the stigma, it feels good to look back and see that we have traveled a long and honorable journey to be where we are – and that we have come a long way. There is still a lot of work to do. HIV/AIDS is not over and people are still being newly diagnosed, young people, but at least now we know this is not a death sentence, which is a testimony to the work that has been done in research, to develop medications. These were fought for by peo0le my age and older. I am grateful for what am doing and doing this work as an elder.”
Around the world, 4.2 million people over the age of 50 – 13% of all people living with HIV – are living with the virus, UNAIDS estimates. In 2016, eight of ten older people living with HIV globally were in low- and middle-income countries. In the US, more than half of those living with HIV who know their diagnosis were at least 50 years old in 2018.
Older people are not routinely tested for HIV. Health care providers may feel uncomfortable asking older patients about their sexual behaviors or believe that older women are not sexually active. When an older patient has flu-like symptoms, many health care providers do not think to test for HIV. This means that older women are often not diagnosed with the virus until they have reached a more advanced stage of HIV disease.