Since the HIV epidemic began in the United States, social workers across the country have been on the front lines of prevention, access to care and treatment, research, policy/advocacy, and empowering people living with HIV disease. For the first time in history, the greatest number of people living with HIV are over the age of 50. As Social Workers, we provide and navigate the array of services that ensure access to care and improved well-being for those living with HIV. Access to services such as mental health care, substance abuse treatment, affordable housing, and other social services are crucial to ensuring that the social determinants are addressed, and improvements are seen along the HIV Care Continuum. Those who are living with HIV and are aging have unique needs of their own.
Today, with so many medical advances and innovative medicines, people can live longer with HIV than imagined at the beginning of the epidemic. With the percentage of people living with HIV over the age of 50 estimated to increase to 70% of all people living with HIV, social workers need to be equipped in recognizing and assisting their aging clients with those unique needs now more than ever. The best way to recognize the needs is to listen to those who have experienced living and aging with HIV.
Made possible through Gilead Sciences, Inc., the Age Positively: A Social Work Response Initiative will 1) form a Social Work in Aging and HIV Task force to identify best practices for social workers addressing the unique needs of people living with HIV/AIDS, 2) develop a social work practice guide, a comprehensive learning curriculum consisting of best practices, and 3) disseminate these educational tools through a variety of avenues.
To participate in the beginning stages of this initiative, attend one of the HIV and Aging Listening Sessions at the 2019 National Conference on Social Work in HIV/AIDS.