More than 60% of people living with HIV in the United States are 50 and older. In light if this fact, a new weekly series of Instagram Stories celebrates members of this aging community. The videos are posted each Monday leading up to World AIDS Day, December 1, on the Instagram account of the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD (@glaad) as well as on Native Son (@nativesonnow), a platform that celebrates Black gay men.
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Along with the Instagram Stories launch, Gilead announced that 24 community-based grantees would receive a total of $16.6 million to address stigma, loneliness, care and other issues relevant to people 50 and older living with HIV. What’s more, Gilead released the “HIV Aging Positively 2021 Progress Report,” which gives an overview of the HIV Aging Positively program and highlights the work and leadership of previous grantees.
According to an emailed press statement about the Instagram Stories and grants, HIV Age Positively is entering its next round of funding. However, a list of new grantees was not included. POZ will update this story as more information becomes available. You can learn more about the program on the Gilead website.
Regarding the series, DaShawn Usher, GLAAD’s associate director of communities of color, said: “We need the media to include the voices of older people living with HIV and the advocates fighting for their care, to amplify the facts necessary to stopping the epidemic and correct the misinformation that fuels discrimination, stigma and new infections."
“We are thrilled to celebrate the lives and acknowledge the unique challenges facing people aging with HIV,” added Emil Wilbekin, founder of Native Son. “Gilead’s HIV Age Positively and GLAAD are playing an invaluable role fueling the worthiness and purpose of this community wherever they exist.”
The debut video features Michelle Lopez of HIV Treatment Works in New York City. In the video, she answers three questions. Here’s the transcript:
How would you describe your HIV journey?
I have been living, diagnosed, with HIV the past 31 years. I am a woman that has a child that is perinatally infected. She’s 31 now. She made me a grandmother five years ago.
What is the most urgent need of our community?
We need to be heard by our providers. We are the first wave of seniors, aging adults living with the virus—it’s not cured; it’s suppressed. Our providers need to hear us.
What advice would you give others about aging positively with HIV?
Do your numbers, then put your proposal to each and every provider on the table. They’ve got to meet you where you’re at. You got to let them know how you feel, what you feel and why you need them to look into it. Take charge of your life.
Other community leaders highlighted in the series include the Reverend Claude Bowen of Thrive SS in Atlanta; Jeff Berry of Test Positive Aware Network in Chicago; Kirk Myers, the founder and CEO of Abounding Prosperity in Dallas; and Bamby Salcedo, MA, the president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition in Los Angeles.
Gilead’s HIV Age Positively program has awarded over $34.2 million in grants to over 42 community-based grassroots organizations since 2018.
To read a collection of POZ articles on people growing older with HIV, click the hashtag #Aging and #HIV and Aging, where you’ll find headlines such as “Women Growing Older With HIV: Get Facts, Speak Out,” “R.I.P. Stephen Karpiak, PhD, Pioneering HIV and Aging Specialist” and “Older Than 50? Think About Your Kidneys When Considering PrEP.”