On September 18, 2021, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)’s HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB) will observe National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. On this day, we recognize the immense progress made over the last 40 years to help people with HIV live long full lives. This day is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the health and social needs of the growing population of older adults with HIV.
In the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP), we have seen a rise in the number of clients who are aged 50 and older. In 2019, nearly 47% of all RWHAP clients were aged 50 and older—a large increase from 31.6% in 2010. The medical care, treatment, and support services provided by the RWHAP improves health outcomes for this aging population and decreases the risk of HIV transmission. People with HIV who take HIV medication as prescribed, and reach and maintain an undetectable viral load, have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner. In 2019, 90.9% of clients aged 50 years and older receiving RWHAP medical care were virally suppressed, which is higher than the national RWHAP average of 88.1 percent.
This is an incredible achievement for our Program, but we understand there is still more work to be done to connect older adults with HIV to the care, treatment, and support they need. Older adults with HIV often experience social isolation, loneliness, and a lack of social support, as well as HIV- and age-related stigma. This may prevent them from seeking or staying in care, and can contribute to mental and physical health issues.
The RWHAP has several resources to help support health care providers who are caring for people aging with HIV. These include two reference guides on Optimizing HIV Care for People Aging with HIV and Putting Together the Best Health Care Team, as well as our HIV and Aging Technical Expert Panel Summary.
Our RWHAP AIDS Education and Training Centers also offer educational webinars, trainings, and tools on caring for older adults with HIV, and TargetHIV.org houses HIV and aging technical assistance resources.
Additionally, HAB’s HIV and Aging workgroup will host a webinar on October 22, 2021: Leveraging Collaboration between the RWHAP and Aging Agencies: Enhancing Support Services for Older Adults with HIV. We encourage you to register and participate in this event.
Finally, if you or someone you know would like to get HIV care or other support services, we encourage you to use our Find a Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Provider tool, and check out the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator.