California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the signing of the state’s HIV & Aging Act on Friday. Authored by state Sen. John Laird, the bill will make sure seniors living with HIV are protected.
“When I was the Santa Cruz AIDS Agency Director in the 1980s, it was our dream to have people living with HIV live into old age,” said Laird in a press release. “To be very clear, this group was not supposed to age. Governor Newsom signing the HIV & Aging Act is a historic moment for the LGBTQ community, and all those who have been affected by the HIV crisis.”
Thanks to advancements in HIV health care, those living with HIV can live long and healthy lives. This means that the number of older adults living with HIV is increasing.
The HIV & Aging Act updates the Welfare and Institutions Code so that those living HIV who are more likely to have multiple comorbidities, behavioral and mental health issues, and limited social support have access to resources provided by the California Department of Aging, reported The Los Angeles Blade.
More than half of the people living with HIV in the state are 50 years old or older, according to a 2018 California HIV Surveillance Report published by the California Department of Public Health cited in a release. The report found that 15 percent of recently diagnosed patients were 50 and older.
Sponsors of the bill, also known as SB 258, include Equality California, AIDS Project Los Angeles Health, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
“After surviving the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic, many Californians living with HIV are now over the age of 50, but in dire need of support,” Equality California legislative director, Tami Martin, said. “Thanks to Governor Newsom, Senator Laird, and HIV advocates, the Golden State will now make sure that our elders living with HIV have access to food assistance, job training, transportation, or any other vital services.”
The HIV & Aging Acted had unanimous support in both chambers of California’s legislature.
APLA Health’s CEO Craig Thompson said that older adults with HIV are often longterm survivors who have lost many loved ones over the years in the epidemic. Thompson said they still face stigma as well.
“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. Unfortunately, our current health and social service systems are not yet prepared to address the unique needs of this population,” Thompson said.
“We must ensure that LGBTQ seniors have the affirming care and support so they can age in peace with dignity,” Laird said. “It’s incumbent upon us to not force individuals back into the closet for them to access adequate care.