TPAN’s new program offers support for older adults with HIV

 ‘ of the most exciting things about Positively Aging is that this is a new program for a new group with unique needs.’

—Chris Manvel

I call them “the twins” because they started working at TPAN on the same day, and for the same new program, Positively Aging. Plus, they have beautiful matching smiles, and even similar-sounding names.

Together, Chris Manvel and Curtis Sanders offer comprehensive mental health, case management, and outreach services specifically to older adults age 50 and up who are living with HIV.

Positively Aging is the newest program at TPAN, the non-profit organization that publishes POSITIVELY AWARE. PA editor-in-chief Jeff Berry and other TPAN staff members helped create the new initiative.

This new collaboration with The Reunion Project, the national peer-driven support network for long-term survivors, allows TPAN to increase direct services and to create new ones for older persons living with HIV in Chicago. In addition, The Reunion Project will expand its support network through its unique “town hall” programs. Information about the project and issues surrounding aging with HIV will be shared with POSITIVELY AWARE's national audience.

Chris is a mental health specialist. Before coming to TPAN, he served as a chaplain at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, and as a bereavement counselor for nearly two years at North Shore Hospice, helping the families of terminally ill patients.

“For me, one of the most exciting things about Positively Aging is that this is a new program for a new group with unique needs,” says Chris. “It’s great that people are living longer, but issues such as isolation, depression, PTSD, and stigma can negatively impact adherence and quality of life. So much more work still needs to be done.”

Curtis has worked 14 years in social services, mostly in HIV prevention. As Positively Aging’s community engagement specialist, he coordinates TPAN’s wide-ranging services to match his clients’ needs, such as housing, case management, and integrated access to the onsite medical clinic run by Howard Brown Health.

“It’s a new group in terms of a specific category,” he says. “But older adults have already been receiving services.” Now, however, there will be services tailored to unmet needs.

He was surprised to learn that most other organizations he’s contacted don’t have support groups—either for younger or older people.

Positively Aging continues to take shape, responding to feedback from the clients it serves. TPAN’s client advisory group has already made suggestions. Areas of need that have been cited include physical health; loneliness and relationships; depression, trauma, and suicide; and practical aspects of aging, such as dealing with health insurance.

For now, Positively Aging is planning at least three educational month-long programs this year, which offer emotional support, under the care of Chris and Curtis. The Reunion Project will coordinate two additional town halls, with the first one taking place in Chicago in June 14–15.

At the conclusion of each program, participants will get to choose a social outing, such as going to dinner or seeing a play. They can continue to talk in a monthly support group, with transportation and meals provided. Chris will also provide individual therapy.

As noted in the March + April issue of PA, “the program will incorporate group social activities to address the isolation known to impede access to care for older adults.”

When TPAN was founded in 1987, its members formed a social support network intended to help them survive. Today, people are living with HIV longer than imagined back then. Surviving into a new age comes with complications specific to that era. Positively Aging helps people with these new vulnerabilities.

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