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NHAAAD 2014: Shifting Attention and Focus to HIV/AIDS and Aging
September 18th, 2014

Aging is a part of life; HIV doesn’t have to be.

This is the theme for the 7th annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD), which is observed yearly on September 18.

This awareness day was created to address two distinct truths:

  1. Many older Americans are not getting tested for HIV. Myths, stigma, and lack of targeted education make this population, especially diverse older adults, less aware of how to protect themselves from the virus. This is concerning because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that by next year, 50% of the people living with HIV in the United States will be 50 years or older.
  2. Medical breakthroughs have improved HIV treatment, allowing people living with HIV/AIDS who stick to regular and continuous care lead longer and healthier lives. While this is a positive outcome, we face a shortage of services and support mechanisms for older Americans living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, there isn’t enough research or data about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the normal aging process.

“If we look at the data, the numbers are very clear. There is a clear need to shift attention and focus to older Americans, who face many of the same HIV risk factors that younger age groups do, yet are more likely to receive a late diagnosis,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO.

“This is particularly true among diverse seniors, who face many health disparities compared with their White non-Hispanic peers. That is why NHCOA became a proud partner of the CDC’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative to help reduce the rates of HIV in hard-to-reach and diverse communities. While NHCOA serves and represents the needs and interests of Hispanic older adults, we know they don’t live in a vacuum.”

“Through our work with AAALI we leverage the strong connections, leadership, and influence Latino seniors have within their families, communities, and places of worship and leisure by offering culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach and education focused on intergenerational storytelling and dialogue to break the silence and eliminate the stigma.”

What you can do on National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

  • Get the Facts. Start a conversation at home, or with a loved one, on HIV/AIDS. You can get more information here.
  • Get Tested. If you are sexually active, ask your healthcare provider for an HIV test during annual check ups. [Under the ACA, most new health insurance plans must cover certain recommended preventive services, including HIV testing. Free HIV screening is also included in Medicare Part B.]
  • Advocate. Read the Diverse Elders Coalition’s Eight Policy Recommendations for Improving the Health and Wellness of Older Adults with HIV.
  • Join the Conversation. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #AIDSandAging and #NHAAAD to be part of the ongoing conversation. Here are some sample messages and memes to get you started.
  • Go Viral. Share this blog post and NHCOA videos like the one below with your contacts and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and aging.


Paid sick leave wins in California and Paterson, NJ
September 10th, 2014

By Dr. Yanira Cruz

On September 9, 2014, Paterson, NJ became the 11th city in the United States, and the 5th in New Jersey, to pass paid sick days (PSD) legislation through a city council ordinance. According to New Jersey Working Families, a nonprofit group that’s part of a coalition of organizations pushing for sick time laws around the state, “more than 4,000 Patersonians signed petitions supporting the initiative.”

The law neither applies to government entities nor to employers that have union contracts in place with their workers. Under this ordinance, employees would be allowed to accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours they work. The workers would be allowed to carry sick days from one year to the next, but they would not be able to cash in unused sick days, according to proponents of the initiative.

Similarly, on August 30, 2014, California joined Connecticut as the second state requiring most California employers to provide a minimum of three paid sick days to their workers each year.

Although it excludes in-home care workers, this law, which was signed into law today, September 10, 2014, will cover an estimated 6 million workers, or 40% of California’s workforce.

The fight for paid sick days has gained incredible momentum in recent years, especially in the past year, all thanks to local and state advocacy groups such as National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF) as well as Family Values @ Work (FV@W).

According to PSD advocates, “workers who do not have access to paid sick days are one-and-a-half times more likely to go to work sick with a contagious illness, putting their co-workers and customers at risk, and costing an estimated $160 billion each year in lost productivity. Delaying treatment for illness can cause conditions to worsen, leading to more emergency room visits and increased costs for public health insurance programs.”

To date, the United States is the only nation in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave and one of a few that does not uniformly require some form of paid sick days.

Despite the introduction of federal legislation, Congress has been slow to act. As a result, states and cities around the United States have taken it upon themselves to pass piece-meal legislation in hopes of creating national discourse and momentum that will force Congress to act and provide a consistent solution to this issue. Given the various victories in the past year, and especially in the past few months, it is clear that this movement is gaining steam and it will hopefully force Congress to act on it in the subsequent months following the November elections.

In addition to Connecticut, and now California, eleven cities have passed similar legislation into law. Five of those cities passed their laws in 2014 alone. Sick-day measures are on at least a half-dozen ballots this November, including in Massachusetts, Oakland, California, and a few cities in New Jersey. At least six more states will take up the issue in 2015, including Colorado, Maryland and Vermont.

NHCOA, a staunch advocate for paid sick days, will continue to work alongside groups such as NPWF and FV@W to ensure that the voices of American workers who would benefit greatly from similar legislation, are heard.

Help Latino Seniors Protect Themselves from Medicare Fraud on Grandparents Day
September 6th, 2014

Many of us have fond memories of our grandparents: hanging out with them on holidays, sharing something sweet to eat, hearing stories of days gone by. They’d greet us with warm hugs and big smiles, spoil us rotten, brag about us to their friends, and we thought they were just the most wonderful people in the world.

Well, many of these wonderful older adults can also fall prey to Medicare fraud because they are so trusting and tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. We all know of those older adults that contribute money to what they think is a worthy cause because someone called them up and tugged at their heart strings. We’ve all heard of those older adults who lose their entire retirement savings to some scam that ended being too good to be true. The same thing happens with Medicare.

Medicare fraud is a multi-billion dollar problem in the United States, and there are all kinds of unscrupulous folks out there waiting to pounce on unsuspecting older adults. In fact, the FBI estimates that Medicare fraud could be as much as $60 billion a year, or about 10 percent of all healthcare expenditures in the country, and it’s expected to go up as the number of older adults increases. That’s money that’s not being used for much-needed healthcare services.

In fact, federal officials call Medicare fraud a crime against healthcare. Did you know that the Affordable Care Act authorizes more jail time if the Medicare fraud involves a million dollars or more? The scammers and unscrupulous people who rip off our older adult population can spend from 20 to 50 percent more time behind bars for scams that involve significant amounts of money. The federal government is serious about catching the fraudsters; we all should be.

Latino older adults are especially vulnerable because some have little or no knowledge of English, they are afraid to ask questions, they have low levels of formal education and very low levels of health literacy.  Moreover, many don’t have enough resources to transport and go to places to access information. Others aren’t sure how to navigate a rather daunting bureaucracy and they’re not sure where to turn for help, so when they see someone who they think   might be helpful,  they put their trust in that person.

What can we do about it?  Talk about it.  Spread the word to prevent Medicare fraud.  Sunday, September 7th happens to be National Grandparents Day, and that’s the perfect time to talk to your grandparents or other older adults about Medicare fraud. Besides spending the day with them, taking them out to eat, or just going over for a nice long visit, make sure they know never to lend their Medicare card out to anyone, and to be real careful who they give their personal information to over the phone. Have them look over their Medicare statement to make sure there aren’t any charges that don’t look right. Report any inconsistencies. The National Hispanic SMP, a Medicare fraud prevention program can help you with additional information: 1-866-488-7379.

Everyone benefits when we all come together to fight Medicare fraud. It’s your money. Let’s work together to keep more of it.


The Significance of Social Security at 79
August 14th, 2014

Social Security is important to all communities, including Latinos who depend on this social insurance program to make ends meet month after month. What would happen if Social Security didn’t exist?

More than half of all U.S. older adults would live in poverty. 


This means that about 1 in 2 seniors is economically insecure, making difficult choices to somehow meet their basic needs. Most times, however, they fall short. They are forced to make unthinkable decisions, sacrificing one basic need to meet another. Older Americans should not have to choose between eating a meal and paying for a dose of medication, but that is the reality many of our seniors face on a daily basis.

For the last several years NHCOA has traveled to different regions of the country with high populations of Hispanic older adults to listen to their stories, which we then use in Washington to advocate on their behalf.


Almost all of the stories we hear from Hispanic older adults on these listening tours are related to economic security— or rather, lack thereof. 


According to the Social Security Administration, Hispanics have lower median earnings because they tend to work in lower paying jobs:

  • In 2012, the average annual Social Security income received by Hispanic men 65 years and older was $13,295, and for women it was $10,500.
  • In 2012, among Hispanics receiving Social Security, 40% of elderly married couples and 62 percent of elderly unmarried persons relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

How does this data translate into real-world situations? Here is one story from our Los Angeles Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meeting in 2013:

I earn $400 in Social Security and $400 for supplemental. But I pay more than $600 in rent… [and] I have to pay for other bills and food is expensive. I also have to pay for medicines. If Social Security is cut, are we going to end up in the streets?  - Ana Margarita

As we celebrate the 79th year of Social Security’s existence, let it serve as a reminder of its significance to millions of seniors, disabled persons, and families across the country and may we never forget the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the signing of the Social Security Act in 1935:

“This law represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means completed… a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.”







Two More Cities Adopt Paid Sick Leave Policies
July 29th, 2014

Yesterday we were witness to what is one of the most significant wins for working families in recent history: San Diego and Eugene, Oregon became the 8th and 9th cities to adopt paid sick leave laws. These cities are in good company, joining nine cities (Portland, New York City, Newark, Jersey City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC) and the state of Connecticut as places that have stood by working families and adopted paid sick day policies.

Despite detractors and critics in both cities, both pieces of legislation passed with ample majority (6-3 vote in San Diego and 5-3 vote in Eugene).

In San Diego, the law would provide full-time workers up to 5 earned sick days per year and prorate part-time workers sick leave based on hours worked, while in Eugene workers would receive one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked with the possibility of accruing up to 40 hours per year.

While there is still opposition and potential legal challenges are in sight, we are hopeful these measures will withstand and more workers and families will have the peace of mind they deserve.

Family Values @ Work’s Executive Director Ellen Bravo qualified yesterday’s events as “historic”:

“Campaigns for paid sick days in Eugene and San Diego involved months of organizing by local workers, small business owners and many partner organizations. Yesterday, their work paid off: no longer will workers in Eugene and San Diego be forced to choose between the job they need and the family that needs them.”

As thrilled as we are about this news, it makes us keenly aware of how many more cities, states and workers—especially Latino workers and families— stand to benefit from paid sick leave legislation. The road ahead to paid family and sick leave for all is long, but working together we can and will improve the lives of all workers and their families.

Medicare Fraud Outreach in the Latino Community is ALL about Partnerships
July 25th, 2014

What makes the Latino community so hard to reach and why is it so hard to fight Medicare fraud in the community?

It’s because this is a unique community. There are cultural and linguist challenges that the community faces. Many people in the community have very low levels of education and low levels of health literacy, and they don’t know how to navigate the system and don’t know what to ask. Sometimes they don’t even know there are programs that they can use and many are very trusting. It’s especially difficult for older Latinos who are also low income, because it’s hard for them to turn down something they get for free, even if they’re not supposed to get it.

But it’s not a lost cause. There are some very effective ways to reach the Latino community and it’s all about thinking in terms of two key words: personalization, and partnerships. Older Latino adults don’t want to be talked down to. They want to feel a personal connection with people and they want to be able to trust that the person they are speaking with is giving them the right information.

That’s why is so important to do to where they are: the places of worship, the community centers, the beauty parlors; anywhere that the community happens to be. Go where they are and talk to them.  And this is where partnerships are important: a partnership with local community leaders and a partnership with members of the media so that they can help you get to the members of the community, and achieve that most important partnership of all: a partnership with older Latinos.

First of all, the Spanish language itself is not monolithic.

Don’t assume that the words that are spoken in the Latino community in Los Angeles, for instance, are the same as the Latino community in Miami or New York. Cultural competency goes beyond language. It’s not enough to be able to speak the language, but rather requires a good understanding of the community. The same word may mean something completely different depending on where members of the community are from. This is where having a relationship with local community leaders becomes very important.

We can’t go into different communities and say the same thing. We have to be mindful of the differences.

Sure, there are many commonalities, such as the importance of family and working together and we definitely have to build on that, but working with community leaders allows us to work with those who know the community best. Community-based organizations and places of worship are also good places to work with to reach older Latinos. If we explain to them about Medicare fraud and how it affects the community, they will help us. We all care about the community and we can work together to prevent Medicare fraud. Another key partnership is with members of the media.

Both the mainstream media and Latino community are important, but the Spanish-language media is considered part of the community. Older Latino adults look at many members of the Latino community as honest people they respect to give them the news and to help the community. At NHCOA, we have found that inviting a reporter or news anchor to a community event has been very effective. Whenever that happens, we get a lot of people to come and listen, because these members of the media are well known and well respected in the community.

Establishing relationships with members of the Latino media is a very good and very effective way to inform the community about Medicare fraud and why they should care.

Members of the Latino press are a good channel for information.  When we work with members of the Latino press, the reporter has a buy-in. This is a community of partnerships, of relationships, of friendships, and if we ask everyone to talk about Medicare fraud prevention, we are creating momentum. If we could get a television news personality to take the flag on Medicare fraud prevention, the campaign would be very successful. Television programs and Spanish-language community newspapers are good outlets, but probably the most effective media outlet in the Latino community is the use of radio, and it’s a medium we don’t use nearly enough.

Radio is a big part of an older Latino’s daily life, and it’s about putting together a PSA and sending it out to stations. It’s about going on local radio programs, talking about the importance of Medicare fraud and giving listeners the opportunity to call-in and ask questions about it. Local radio programs have been a very effective way to reach the community. Whenever we’ve used radio, the phones have been ringing off the hook with people seeking answers. We’ve also found that it’s not a one-shot deal.

Repetition is the name of the game here.

It’s not about going on a radio show and leaving town to never come back, but rather to come on as many times as possible. Repetition, repetition, repetition. A very effective method is finding a news hook. Pay attention to the news. When Medicare scammers are arrested, for instance, that’s a good opportunity to talk about Medicare fraud and show older Latinos why it’s an issue they should care about.

We’ve also found that talking about other topics doesn’t mean that the issue of Medicare fraud won’t come up.

For example, at NHCOA we found that when we talked about the Affordable Care Act when it was rolling out, we had many questions about Medicare. Scammers don’t take a day off, and they were telling Latino seniors that under ACA, they had to change coverage, which is not true and that was causing a lot of confusion. By talking about ACA, we were able to clear up a lot of questions older Latinos had about Medicare and Medicare fraud. It’s also a good idea not to forget that because family is so important in the Latino community, making sure the message of Medicare fraud reaches members of an older Latino’s family is very important.

Additionally, making sure to include caregivers in any messaging is also essential, as it is oftentimes the caregivers who are making decisions for the older Latinos. When you create partnerships with community leaders, community-based organizations and members of the media, you create an effective way to talk to older Latinos, their families, and caregivers about Medicare fraud in a caring, respectful way and they feel they have a stake in the issue and would help make sure it doesn’t happen to them.

NHCOA Applauds Bipartisan Vote to Confirm Julian Castro as HUD Secretary
July 9th, 2014

Washington, DC- Today Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)– the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families and caregivers– applauded the confirmation of Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in a majority bipartisan vote in the U.S. Senate earlier today:

“Today is an important day for the Latino community and the entire country. We are heartened the Senate acted promptly and decisively in confirming Julián Castro as our next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. NHCOA looks forward to working with Secretary Castro to tackle the important and unavoidable issues of multigenerational poverty and adequate, affordable housing for all diverse older Americans.”




NHCOA Regional Meetings: Leveraging the Power of Stories and Grassroots Leadership
July 7th, 2014

Access to health care, Medicare fraud, poverty, and hunger were the most pressing issues discussed at the Miami and Dallas Open Forums, which are part of the National Hispanic Council on Aging’s 2014 Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meeting series. This post was originally published on the Diverse Elders Coalition blog on July 3, 2014. NHCOA is a proud founder of the DEC, which works to ensure that the needs and perspectives of vulnerable elders would be heard when and where it mattered. For more information, visit 


The data speaks for itself:

  • Over one-quarter of the Hispanic population is in poverty.
  • There are about 750,000 older adults nationwide experiencing hunger and 5 million facing food insecurity. Of these, Hispanic older adults are 20% more likely to be hungry.
  • Latino seniors and diverse elders are more likely to suffer specific chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

However, data indicators, pie charts, and percentages eventually have a desensitizing effect on the reader. Without a face or a story to accompany the statistics, it is difficult to empathize with those affected or gain perspective about the severity of the issue.

As the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers, NHCOA relies greatly on community-based organizations that serve Latino seniors and families, as well as community leaders, to understand the needs and concerns of our Hispanic aging population. These are the folks who are the “front lines” — those who witness and are directly affected by issues that keep Latino seniors from aging securely and in the best health possible. In an effort to record these stories, anecdotes, and experiences, as well as promote bottom-up leadership, we launched the Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meeting series in 2011.

To achieve this, NHCOA began traveling to different areas of the country with the highest concentrations of Hispanic older adults and Latino families. By going directly to the community, we eliminate communication barriers, develop stronger ties, and create a unique opportunity for seniors, families, professionals, and local leaders to speak up and engage with each other. Each regional meeting consists of two parts: the Empowerment and Civic Engagement Training and the Open Forum.

The Empowerment & Civic Engagement Training (ECET) is NHCOA’s signature CEU-certified two-day popular education course. It was designed to train local, intergenerational leaders to mobilize their communities and create positive changes through grassroots advocacy campaigns. To date, more than 1,000 community leaders have successfully gone through the training, of which dozens are certified to teach the ECET in their respective communities.

Following the ECET we host an Open Forum, a culturally and linguistically sensitive space that brings together local CBOs, community leaders, seniors, professionals, and local policymakers to connect. We listen to first-hand accounts from Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers detailing concerns and problems they face on a daily basis, and they have the opportunity to connect with local resources and information to advance their quality of life.


This year’s regional meetings are focused on the issues of healthcare, hunger, and poverty—three pressing issues which are of critical importance to the daily lives of Hispanic older adults. We launched the series mid-May in Miami, FL and recently wrapped up our regional meeting in Dallas, TX. At these Open Forums, we have heard numerous stories of the tough decisions people are making on a daily basis: skipping meals to fill a medical prescription or skipping medication doses to eat more. We have heard stories of Medicare fraud, myths regarding healthcare coverage, prevalent and persistent hunger, and the frustrations they feel each day.

Just as I tell the participants before we start the discussions, these stories make a difference and will have an impact beyond the meeting. After our final regional meeting in Los Angeles in August, we will compile and analyze the information gathered at each Open Forum and issue a report which will be released in September in Washington, DC. (The 20112012 and 2013 versions of this report are available on the NHCOA website.) While we have a long road ahead to solve the problems our diverse elder communities face, working together we can achieve a stronger, golden America for all.

The NHCOA Regional Meeting in Los Angeles will be hosted at the California Endowment from August 19-21, 2014. For more information, contact or The 2014 Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meeting series is made possible with the support of Abbvie, Lilly, and Univision.

Un plan de acción de cómo usar su nueva cobertura
June 17th, 2014

Este es un mensaje especial de Cara James, Ph.D., directora de la Oficina de Salud de las Minorías de los Centros de Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid (CMS, por sus siglas en inglés). 

Si usted es uno de los millones de estadounidenses que recientemente obtuvo cobertura médica a través del nuevo Mercado de Seguros Médicos, Medicare, Medicaid o Seguro Médico para Niños (CHIP), los materiales ofrecidos en Desde la Cobertura al Cuidado de su Salud pueden ayudarle con las preguntas que pueda tener para que pueda aprovechar al máximo su cobertura de salud. Los recursos están disponibles en

De la Cobertura al Cuidado de la Salud

Algunos de los temas incluyen:

Comprensión de su cobertura médica: Asegúrese de empezar por saber cómo funciona su plan o cobertura. Familiarícese con los servicios cubiertos y la cantidad que tendrá que pagar. Usted también puede aprender lo que significan las nuevas condiciones y cómo se aplican a su cobertura.

Use los Servicios Preventivos para mantenerse saludable: Su cobertura está diseñada para servirle más allá de que cuando se enferme. En las revisiones periódicas, usted puede hacer preguntas sobre los pasos a seguir para mantenerse saludable. Después de todo, la prevención es una parte fundamental para mantener la salud – y bajo la Ley de Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio, muchos servicios preventivos están cubiertos sin copagos o costos adicionales.

Entienda la diferencia entre el Cuidado Primario vs. Cuidado de Emergencia: Usted visitará a su proveedor de cuidado primario para las visitas de rutina y cuando se sienta enfermo. Cuando se sienta muy enfermo o que su vida está en peligro, usted tendrá que visitar la sala de emergencia. Puede que pague un copago más alto o coseguro por las visitas de emergencia.

Seguimiento después de sus Citas: Recuerde que el buen cuidado no termina después de visitar a su médico. Asegúrese de seguir las instrucciones de su médico de cabecera, hacer sus citas de seguimiento, si es necesario, y llenar las recetas necesarias.

Si tiene preguntas acerca de su nueva cobertura de salud, comuníquese con su compañía de seguros directamente o llámenos al 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). Nuestros representantes del Centro de Llamadas del Mercado están disponibles las 24 horas del día los 7 días de la semana, si necesita ayuda. Si tiene preguntas acerca de su cobertura de Medicaid o CHIP, puede llamar a su agencia estatal directamente para obtener más información. Si tiene preguntas sobre sus beneficios de Medicare, llámenos al 1-800-MEDICARE.

Top 3 reasons Latinos should participate in HIV vaccine testing
May 29th, 2014


3. To understand HIV immunity better

HIV is one of the most studied pathogens in human history. However, the virus’ rapid mutation and error-prone replication process make it a difficult target for vaccine development. That’s part of why it has been so difficult to find an effective vaccine so far. As more people participate in HIV vaccine testing, scientists gain a better understanding of how the immune system responds to proteins that look like HIV (since the actual virus is not used in making HIV vaccines). This information is used to improve vaccines, develop new treatments and identify new targets to more effectively prevent HIV infection.

2. To ensure safety of vaccines

All medications on pharmacy shelves and all vaccines administered in doctor’s offices have something in common – they have all undergone extensive medical testing to ensure their safety and efficacy. Medical research depends on the contributions of people from all walks of life giving of themselves for the benefit of people across the globe. Reasons for enrolling in clinical trials are highly personal and vary from participant to participant, but diverse participation is a vital part of the search for an effective HIV vaccine.

1. To ensure efficacy in diverse populations

As previously mentioned, the success of medications and vaccines depends on the contributions of research volunteers. When participants come predominantly from one demographic group, the ability to generalize the resulting product is limited. For example, long-used cardiac medications have been shown to be less effective in diverse communities than in white populations. This is due in part to the fact that the vast majority of research participants in the United States are white. This is particularly problematic for conditions like HIV that disproportionally affect diverse communities. By increasing diversity in clinical trials participation, we can ensure that any vaccine brought to market can have the most benefit in the hardest-hit populations.

Read about Augusto’s experience as a clinical trial participant.


HIV is a global issue. Responding to it and preventing its spread requires the active participation of all communities, particularly those most affected by it, as are Latinos in the United States. For more information about participating in HIV vaccine trials, contact

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