More than half of people living with HIV are over the age of 50, and living long, fulfilling lives. These are facts and faces that don’t get much media attention, but they absolutely should. Seeing and hearing people who are living with HIV helps dispel the fear and the stigma that keeps people from getting tested and treated, perpetuating this 40-year epidemic. Their stories offer proof that with proper treatment, HIV is a condition they – and anyone – can live with, even thrive with.
It’s a message that’s desperately needed. GLAAD’s 2021 State of HIV Stigma Study found that less than half of Americans knew that people with HIV cannot transmit it when being treated effectively.
Today, GLAAD and Gilead Sciences’ HIV Age Positively® program announced the launch of a weekly Instagram video series with Native Son featuring people 50 and over who are living with HIV. The video series will highlight personal stories and advocacy solutions of the community-based organizations that are using grants from HIV Age Positively to provide essential services to older people living with HIV. The video series launches as HIV Age Positively enters its next round of funding, with 24 organizations across 11 states receiving $16.6 million to support people living with HIV who are over the age of 50, a group that is rapidly growing – the latest HIV Age Positively Progress Report shows that by 2030, at least 73% of people living with HIV will be over age 50.
“People living with HIV are living long, healthy lives with proper care, facts that Gilead is paying close attention to, and that all of us must hear a lot more about,” said DaShawn Usher, Associate Director, Communities of Color, at GLAAD. “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.”
Native Son, a global platform, will join GLAAD in sharing the videos on their Instagram page through World AIDS Day on December 1. Native Son harnesses the collective power of Black gay/queer men with the goal of ensuring that their voices, visibility and lived experiences are elevated in all of the communities in which they exist and never again disregarded.
“We are thrilled to celebrate the lives and acknowledge the unique challenges facing people aging with HIV,” said 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 video series kicks off with Michelle Lopez of HIV Treatment Works in New York, who explains that having HIV has not stopped her from living or from expanding her life, becoming a mother, and now, a grandmother.
Future pieces in the series will also feature a diverse range of grantees, including Rev. Claude Bowen of Thrive SS in Atlanta, Jeff Berry of Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) in Chicago, Kirk Myers, the Founder & CEO of Abounding Prosperity in Dallas, and Bamby Salcedo, M.A, the President & CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition in Los Angeles.
Launched in 2018, Gilead’s HIV Age Positively has awarded more than $34.2 million in grants to over 42 community-based, grassroots organizations who are investing in three guiding pillars: improving care coordination, increasing resources for well-being, and educating and informing policy to improve the quality of life for those who are aging with HIV. The program helps organizations intentionally address stigma, loneliness and better coordination of care.
“Gilead is proud to support these local community-based organizations who are working on behalf of aging PLWH over 50,” said Brett Pletcher, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and General Counsel, Gilead Sciences. “This next round of grant funding will expand care and well-being services and support advocacy for robust policy changes, that we hope will help to meet the urgent and growing needs of this unique community.”
As noted in the HIV Age Positively Progress Report, many organizations receiving grants focused their investments on digital accessibility, which allowed them to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic and successfully deliver care resources through digital and virtual means. In many cases, advances in digital accessibility, initially created as temporary solutions to fill a need during the pandemic, are now becoming robust, regular parts of grantee programs.
Ribbon, a Maryland-based organization committed to addressing and supporting the growing community of people 50 and older aging with HIV, will use its HIV Age Positively grant to help launch the Ribbon Organizing Center. “Over the next three years, Ribbon Organizing Center will work with some of the country’s leading organizations and leaders to be a game-changer, charting a new path to aging and thriving with HIV,” said Linda H. Scruggs, Co-Executive Director of Ribbon and Director for the Ribbon Organizing Center.
The video series will be hosted on GLAAD and Native Son’s Instagram pages. For more information on the Gilead HIV Age Positively program and its grantees, visit www.gilead.com/purpose/partnerships-and-community/hiv-age-positively.
Here is the full list of organizations receiving HIV Age Positively® grants this year:
Ribbon in Maryland
Los Angeles LGBT Center in Los Angeles, CA
Thrive SS Inc in Atlanta, GA
The Reunion Project in Illinois
My Brother’s Keeper Inc in Ridgeland, MS
Illinois Public Health Association in Springfield, IL
Us Helping Us-People Into Living Inc in Washington, DC
Abounding Prosperity Inc in Dallas, TX
Global Forum On MSM & HIV in California
Prevention Action Campaign in Washington, DC
Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) in New York, NY
Latino Commission On AIDS Inc in New York, NY
The Translatin@ Coalition in Los Angeles, CA
Professional Association Of Social Workers In HIV & AIDS (PASWHA) in Birmingham, AL
University Of California, San Francisco in San Francisco, CA
Christie’s Place Inc in San Diego, CA
APLA Health & Wellness in California
Pride Center Of Maryland Inc in Baltimore, MD
Shanti Project Inc in San Francisco, CA
The Association Of Nurses In AIDS Care in Akron, OH
San Francisco AIDS Foundation in San Francisco, CA
Coalition On Positive Health Empowerment Inc in New York, NY
Cascade AIDS Project in Portland, OR