APLA Health applauded Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature for taking action to improve the health and wellbeing of older people with HIV.
Senate Bill 258, also known as the HIV and Aging Act, was approved in the Legislature and signed by Newsom last week. The legislation designates older people with HIV as a population of “greatest social need” and will help to improve access to services and support for older adults. Following Illinois in 2019, California is the second in the country to make the designation. The legislation was authored by Sen. John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) and co-sponsored by APLA Health, Equality California, SAGE and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
Also, the 2021-22 state budget includes $5 million – the largest state investment to date – to establish up to five demonstration projects to address the unique medical and support service needs of older people with HIV. The demonstration projects will be modeled after the Golden Compass Program, a successful program for people with HIV over age 50 in San Francisco. The budget also expands Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented adults ages 50 and older.
“Thanks to effective treatments, people with HIV are living longer than we could have ever imagined just a few decades ago and now a majority of people with HIV in California are over 50 years old,” APLA Health CEO Craig E. Thompson said. “Unfortunately, our current health and social service systems are not yet prepared to address the unique needs of this population. Many older people with HIV are long term survivors of the AIDS epidemic. They have lost countless loved ones and entire networks of social support. They continue to face discrimination and alarming levels of stigma. These historic actions will help to ensure that people aging with HIV have the resources and support they need to thrive.”
Older people with HIV face a unique set of challenges because of their HIV status. They are more likely to have multiple comorbidities including cancer, cardiovascular disease and bone loss. They also face a number of behavioral health challenges, including higher rates of depression, anxiety and substance use.
By designating older people with HIV as a population of “greatest social need,” the California Department of Aging and local agencies on aging will be required to conduct outreach and identify effective strategies to ensure that people with HIV have access to services. They include congregate and home-delivered meals, senior centers, caregiver support, transportation, health promotion and benefits enrollment.
In conjunction, the demonstration projects will support the development of innovative programs and services to address the unique needs of people aging with HIV, with a particular focus on Black, Indigenous and people of color, as well as other vulnerable communities.
“Earlier this year, the Newsom administration demonstrated its commitment to supporting older Californians with the launch of the state’s first-ever Master Plan for Aging,” Thompson added. “Now, with these actions, the governor and Legislature have made it abundantly clear that they are committed to equity and ensuring that people aging with HIV are not left behind.”
For information, visit aplahealth.org.
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