This was originally posted on the Farmworker Justice blog, Harvesting Justice, on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.
It’s easy to avoid certain issues, and sweep any related conversations under the rug because many find it an uncomfortable topic to talk about. When it comes talking about HIV/AIDS and its impact on our aging communities, we cannot afford to let silence, stigma, and lack of awareness take over.
What should really make all of us uncomfortable is the increasing number of older adults who are living with HIV/AIDS. In 2009, 23% of the people diagnosed with AIDS in the United States were ages 50+. What’s even more alarming is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in less than 10 years about half the people living with HIV will be 50+.
Yet, the reality is that older adults—particularly Latino seniors— are often disconnected from and overlooked in the HIV/AIDS dialogue. That is why NHCOA and Farmworker Justice partner with the CDC through the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative to use dialogue and openness to replace the deafening silence that often prevails when it comes to HIV/AIDS and the Hispanic community.
Although talking HIV with Latino older adults can be challenging, it is a conversation that we must have. There are many myths that persist, such as believing they are immune to HIV because it only affects youth, which then leads to unsafe sex practices.
This reality is compounded by a convergence of demographic, cultural, linguistic, socioeconomic, mental health, drug abuse, and age-related factors that continue to challenge our public health and health care delivery system as it relates to prevention, education, and treatment within diverse communities.
On September 18, we will commemorate the 5th annual National HIV/AIDS Aging and Awareness Day to focus on these challenges aging populations face when it comes to HIV prevention, testing, access to care, and treatment.
As part of these efforts, we invite all communities, especially diverse elders and their families and caregivers, to join the Act Against AIDS campaign by getting the facts, getting tested, and getting involved.
NHCOA and Farmworker Justice are two of three national Hispanic/Latino partners of the CDC’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI), a multi-year national communication initiative to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS among diverse communities. To learn how you can act against AIDS, please visit www.actagainstaids.org.