Launched this year, Positively Aging is a new collaboration between The Reunion Project and TPAN, the publisher of POSITIVELY AWARE. This joint venture seeks to strengthen an already-existing national network of long-term survivors and create a new program in Chicago for older adults living with HIV, all the while elevating all our stories through profiles, opinion pieces, and interviews in this new regular column appearing in PA.
Nationally, over 50% of people living with HIV (PLWH) are over the age of 50. But in Chicago, where TPAN provides direct services to the community, over 73% of PLWH are over 50. People are living longer, and that’s a good thing—it means we’re doing our part to get people tested, into care, and keeping them there. Getting them on effective treatment to keep their virus suppressed, and working to prevent transmission from happening in the first place.
But we can do better. We need to improve the quality of life of PLWH over 50, and achieve health equity for all groups of people living with the virus. We need to ensure access to mental health services for PLWH over 50 that are better targeted and designed to address issues such as trauma, PTSD, isolation, and depression. We also need to make sure that mental health providers are sensitive to the unique issues affecting older adults living with HIV.
The Positively Aging collaboration seeks to address some of these issues. In Chicago, TPAN will implement Positively Aging through the delivery of services tailored to the needs of older adults. Comprehensive mental health services and case management will be integrated with access to on-site primary medical care (provided by TPAN’s existing on-site collaborator, Howard Brown Health). In addition, the program will incorporate group social activities to address the isolation known to impede access to care for older adults.
Nationally, Positively Aging will enable The Reunion Project to expand its outreach to and engagement with long-term survivors and other older individuals affected by HIV. In cities across the country, The Reunion Project will expand its schedule of local town halls to deliver vital access to peer support and education. The Reunion Project will also expand its online and digital presence.
When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1989, survival was not guaranteed. Treatments were suboptimal, and I had no reason to think that I would make it while my friends were all dying around me. Little did I know that I would be here today, living, thriving, and aging with HIV some 30 years later. Programs such as Positively Aging, and other collaborations and networks of PLWH, are finally beginning to emerge to address the unique challenges facing people living and aging with HIV. I’m grateful to be a part of them, and blessed to work in a community that values the lives of all people living, and aging, with HIV.
Putting hopes and dreams into reality, creating real-world solutions, so that people can age positively—Positively Aging. Tell us your plan for aging positively with HIV, and we might just share it here. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.