Jesse Milan Jr., J.D.
President and CEO, AIDS United
People with HIV are aging. Now, besides HIV-related care, we need to think about (and adjust to) age-related issues, too.
I am a long-term survivor of HIV. Having acquired the virus during the early years of the epidemic, I am fortunate to still be here when so many I knew and loved are gone.
I am alive and healthy today because of the many advances in treatment. I am not alone. Right now, more than 50 percent of the people living with HIV in the United States are over 50 years old, and that number will grow to 70 percent by 2030.
We need to start preparing for that now to ensure that our systems can support all of us aging with HIV.
In 2019, AIDS United conducted a survey of long-term survivors. Respondents reported difficulties accessing and maintaining health care. Many experienced challenges managing their HIV care alongside other health conditions common with aging. Too many respondents said their needs are given little attention or are ignored altogether.
They described gaps in health professionals’ knowledge and experience about aging with HIV. These are coupled with anxiety about the future, loneliness, and long-term nursing care.
So, what can we do?
First, we must share our stories and reach out to each other because our resilience is strongest when we work as a community.
Then, we must advocate for policies that support people aging with HIV while also dismantling systems like racism, homophobia, and transphobia that target so many of us most impacted by HIV.
COVID-19 disproportionately impacts seniors, and there are many seniors living with HIV, so finding a vaccine and a cure is a top priority.
Even in grief, exhaustion and anger, I believe the HIV epidemic will end in my lifetime.
It is within our grasp. I am here and I am healthy — and so are thousands of long-term survivors across our nation. We need your support. Because we, like you, are aging.