A new report issues policy recommendations to improve the health of older people living with HIV

In July, NMAC held a webinar to discuss the findings of a recent report by the O’Neill Institute, “Meeting the Needs of People Aging with HIV on the Path to Ending the HIV Epidemic (May 2021).”

The report, prepared by Sean E. Bland and Jeff Crowley of the HIV Policy Project of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, puts forward five key policy recommendations that would improve the lives of older people living with HIV, lists existing resources that can be leveraged, and provides examples of successful models of care including Positively Aging, the collaboration among TPAN, The Reunion Project, Positively Aware, and National Working Positive Coalition.

At the start of the webinar, Crowley said, “A couple years ago, I started doing a little work in this area, and then Sean and I convened a meeting, and we produced this follow-up report. I want to say when I first got started, I was struck, and when we had our convening some of the national policy advocates were also struck, and it’s really troubling, just the level of despair experienced by so many people who are aging with HIV, people 50 and older, the feeling that in some ways, our movement’s forgotten them, or just feeling neglected in some ways…I think we all need to acknowledge that and do better.

“The other observation I’d make is that some of the challenges we face are so big, it can be immobilizing. In all the work we do, but in this report as well, we say this is a huge topic, but here’s a manageable number of recommendations…The other point I would leave you with, is with the existing programs and services and resources we have today, we can do better to deal with the needs of people aging with HIV.”

During his webinar presentation Sean Bland pointed out that one particular challenge faced by older people living with HIV is being able to access aging programs. “Some programs have age cutoffs, and that can sometimes be a problem for folks,” so ensuring that individuals “are not only aware of the program, but that we have advocacy to make sure that these programs are accessible to people aged 50 and older, and maybe even younger than that, to make sure that we’re really meeting the complexity of their needs.” Bland continued, “we also need this commitment to health equity and intersectional policy approaches, so when thinking about equity issues, we need to be responsive to the experiences of people of color to women to trans folks who are immigrants, folks who lack access to housing or face other economic or social challenges.”

According to the report, “More than half of people living with HIV in the United States are aged 50 or older, and a growing number of people are living and aging with HIV into their 70s and beyond. Concerted action is needed to meet the needs of older people living with HIV. The burdens of HIV, aging, and related health comorbidities, combined with the social and structural challenges that people aging with HIV face, necessitate not only a focus on HIV-related outcomes, but also a comprehensive response aimed at treating comorbidities and improving long-term health and quality of life.”

The following policy actions are recommended by the report: 

  1. Develop models of care and prevention for people aging with HIV and train and equip the clinical and non-clinical workforce
  2. Expand opportunities for older people living with HIV to make social connections through community-based programs that address isolation, stigma, and trauma
  3. Maintain Medicare Part D drug access protections (e.g., Six Protected Classes) and expand focus on high-quality care and quality of life
  4. Allocate more funding to programs that support financial security and access to employment, housing, food, and public benefits for the aging HIV population
  5. Promote the meaningful participation of older people living with HIV in the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) Initiative and in broader advocacy efforts.

Read the full report: oneill.law.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Meeting-the-Needs-of-People-Aging-with-HIV.pdf

Watch the webinar: bit.ly/aging-webinar-2021-07-08