Aging with HIV – Let’s do what we can to stay healthy!

September 27th, 2021 | Viewpoint

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When I got diagnosed with HIV in 1985, I never imagined that I would one day be enrolling in Medicare. However, more people than ever before are aging with HIV. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, 51% of people with HIV in the United States and its territories were 50 and over.

For the past 10 years or so, most of the concerns for people aging with HIV focused on the challenges of survivorship (i.e., the emotional toll on those who lived through the early years of the epidemic), as well as the stress of living with HIVnow a serious and still stigmatized chronic illnessfor many decades. In addition, discussions about HIV and aging focused on the typical challenges that many seniors with HIV face, such as isolation, lack of meaningful engagement, and the loss of many friends and loved ones. 

Aging has become a significant issue among people with HIV and their allies and health care providers. In particular, there has been widespread discussion on topics such as healthy living for those of us who are living past 50, 60, and beyond; whether and how to promote research into how to manage the many co-morbidities associated with aging for people who also have HIV; and how to access and pay for medications through Medicare.

To this last point, JSI’s Access, Care, and Engagement Technical Assistance (ACE TA) Center is working to demystify Medicare eligibility, enrollment, and coverage for people with HIV. The ACE TA Center has developed Medicare-specific tools and resources for Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) staff, program navigators, and consumers, including the ABCDs of Medicare Coverage, Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage for RWHAP Clients, and the Basics of Medicare for RWHAP Coverage. These resources are a great place to start for those of us approaching 65. And don’t forget, the open enrollment period for Medicare is October 15–December 7 each year.

To maintain my health, I practice yoga and meditation, take my meds each day, and rely on my medical providers to keep me “tuned up.” My hope is that those of us who are aging with HIV honor our friends and other loved ones with HIV who did not live this long by taking good care of ourselves and using available resources to live as healthy, happy, and long a life as possible.

Written by Stewart Landers

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