people living with HIV tend to be lonely and depressed, often facing
serious financial hardships and no housing. They may also suffer from
numerous physical health problems like diabetes, fatigue, chronic
pain and heart disease.
this has been common knowledge, still there is a lack of services to
meet the need.
two-thirds of San Francisco’s HIV population is 50 and older. The
majority of them were infected with HIV at least 20 years ago. These
are known as long-term survivors – people infected before drugs
were developed to treat the disease, and the illness was deemed a
death sentence. Although they’ve been using the drugs, many of the
survivors face a new challenge – ones that include both physical
recently released survey of 200 participants shows there is a huge
problem with the needs of older HIV adults not being met:
- Over 60 percent suffered from some sort of mental health problem such as anxiety or depression.
- About 70 percent of them have post-traumatic stress disorder.
- About 50 percent suffer from neuropathy, which is a nerve pain HIV causes or its earlier drugs cause.
- 56 percent of people have severe fatigue
- 1/4 of them don’t have the money they need to cover expenses.
- Seven percent have no permanent residence.
- Half of the respondents don’t have enough food.
- 15 percent they don’t have any type of emotional support.
not that big of a surprise to find the getting older problematic for
HIV individuals, as they didn’t they get to that age. Some days are
great but other days… not so much.
are about 6,000 long-term HIV survivors in the San Francisco area.
They, along with the newly infected HIV older adults, comprise most
of the city’s modern HIV epidemic. It’s unfortunate that too many
nonprofit agencies, infectious disease experts, public health
officials and doctors see the disease as affecting the young the
top of that, most resources go toward prevention and early treatment.
the reality that older HIV individuals have needs too, there are not
as many services for them. There are specialty programs that help
older HIV-infected individuals. For example, Crisostomo’s group has
grown to around 70 people at every Wednesday meeting. Ward 86, the
HIV department of the city’s General Hospital – added a geriatric
clinic for San Francisco’s older population.
groups founded during the worst of the epidemic have added in buddy
systems, special nutrition programs and more. Some older HIV
individuals are impressed by the services they can receive.
McManus, 56, came to San Francisco and joined the 50-Plus group at
Crisostomo. He said there are a plethora of resources in San
Francisco unlike where he moved from in California. He said in San
Francisco he can thrive and find the help he needs.
working with agencies that were designed to help HIV-infected
individuals are concerned there’s not enough help out there to
assist the older population. For example, the San Francisco Model of
Care is an agency set up during the 1980s and 1990s and is unable to
keep up with the number of HIV-infected individuals. Project Open
Hand offers free meals and groceries to HIV-infected people for over
Project Open Hand’s chief executive Mark Ryle said over 90 percent of his group’s HIV clients are 50 and older. Despite doing everything it can to help these individuals, he knows the long-term survivor community feels left out.
said these individuals have fallen through the cracks.
Francisco General has a geriatric clinic known as Golden Compass,
which is designed to stop the growing cap in older HIV care. However,
it’s one clinic, and the thousands of HIV individuals in the city
looking for help may not get the assistance they need.
Compass was set up to help people with more than just physical
problems. It’s also supposed to help them with stress, addiction,
isolation, etc. However, there is only so much that can be helped
with their housing and financial situation.
In the Crisostomo’s 50-Plus group, people are talking about how they can barely afford to live in San Francisco but can’t leave either as other places don’t have the kinds of resources this city does.