Recently I wrote about supporting a friend through sickness, but different kinds of diseases call for different kinds of support. One of the easiest and most helpful things you can do to support someone with HIV is to help destigmatize it. Knowing the facts about infection, treatment, and health are simple ways to remove the stigma.
- People aged 55 and older accounted for 26% of all Americans living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV infection in 2013.
- People aged 50 and older have the same HIV risk factors as younger people, but may be less aware of their HIV risk factors.
- Older Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV infection later in the course of their disease.
Here are some simple ways to support and nurture your friend or family member who may be HIV positive or have AIDS. These are just jumping off places:
• Don’t be afraid! Your friend or family member is the same person.
• Don’t exclude your friend or family member from your life or your activities. This is the time to fold them in MORE and let them know just how supported and loved they are.
• Hug your friend and family member in front of others. People may be taking cues from your behavior and when you are openly loving and receptive it shows others how to do and be the same.
• If you hear false statements about HIV or AIDS correct it.
This is Barbara (on the right) and her friend, Marlene (on the left):
Barbara says she went to the doctor and she thought she had a cold. Her doctor asked her if she was afraid to take an HIV test and she said, “Pfft! No!” She went back to the doctor and he told her she was HIV positive. Barbara says everyone should get tested and know their status. Have someone in your corner, a supporter, someone there to talk to ad be open with. Marlene says, “if we want to change the course of this virus and really help our family and help the people around us that we love we should stand up and do something and do something about that.”
Barbara is 65 years old, she has fought in the civil rights movement and says she got, “wet up with the water hoses”. She says fighting HIV is just another cause for her – and hopefully, she says, “we will win this battle”.
September 18th is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. Almost a 1/4 of the participants of the Let’s Stop HIV Together Campaign are 50 and over. We can help with some of the unique prevention challenges by being more vocal with our doctor about testing. (Making screening a part of standard care, regardless of age). We can share links and resources for local screening facilities.
This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.