National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day-Team Indy

By Barney on October 19, 2010 in AmeriCorps

The Team decided to meet with a local community asset, Delores Horgan to identify the needs of our community and how we are responding to those needs as it relates to our elderly citizens.  Each Team Member took a moment to reflect on the time we spent talking with her, and below are those comments.

Dolores’s perspective on HIV-related issues was especially unique because of her personal connection to the disease combined with her involvement in the prevention community. She was able to describe the history and progress of HIV/AIDS care in Indianapolis as a first hand witness. As we spoke with her more, it was clear that she had an attentive connection with the people that she was reaching out to. I was surprised by the awareness of HIV Dolores described within the senior citizen community as well as the support of others in reaching out to this population. Even with this less explored group of at-risk individuals, the same barriers of misunderstanding and stigma still seemed to exist. In reaching out to the elderly and aging populations about HIV, there is a strong base of awareness to work with, but there is still much to be done.

From the discussion we had with Delores on Friday it stressed to me that HIV still has a stigma tied to it and people don’t realize that it can affect everyone. It is important that HIV/AIDS awareness is not just catered to younger generations but all since there is a rise in the senior population.

I felt that she brought a lot of honesty and humanity to our meeting on Friday.  By painting a picture that wasn’t all roses (and at times it was a bit depressing) she shed some light on some of the huge deterrents in getting people to accept this disease….

Aging and HIV is a topic that is not widely discussed because many think that the old do not engage in sexual activities. Studies show that the elderly over 60 still engage in sexual activities, and if this is true it is important to continue HIV education among this group as well. Proving this, 15 of the new diagnosed cases of HIV are those over the age 50. So, the discussion of HIV and sex education among the elderly should exist and needs to be implemented in the many HIV prevention campaigns.

I think it was important for our team to hear Delores speak about her experiences with HIV and the elderly since, even in the HIV world, it is a rarely discussed topic. People don’t like to think of senior citizens as sexually active, but they are. Senior citizens think that just because pregnancy is not a concern they have no need to use condoms, so they don’t. The combination of these beliefs has lead to rising numbers of STDs in the elderly population, yet there is still a significant lack of prevention and awareness available. It is reassuring to meet someone like Delores who is doing their part to help stop the spread of HIV in a population that is typically overlooked.

In reflecting upon the conversation we had with Delores it makes it that much more obvious to me that we cannot fall into the trap of thinking that HIV is only effecting a certain population.  In fact, the older population is temporary.  One day every other age group will become elderly-including the groups most infected now.  Unfortunately, knowing that there is a need is one thing, but actually being able to reach a community who seems to have no understanding of how it relates to them is the true obstacle here.  We can certainly begin by not marginalizing them in our outreach.

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