In an epidemic that has lasted nearly 40 years, it is important to take time to acknowledge those who have come before us in our fight to end HIV.
As we celebrate LGBTQ+ Elders Day, we celebrate those who made the existence of many in this movement possible. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants who forged a path forward.
It is equally important to honor those who never had the chance to become an elder in the LGBTQ+ community. These voices were silenced too early by this epidemic, by violence fueled by hate and bigotry and by the inability to be their true and authentic selves. May we cherish the memories of those who are no longer with us and continue to fight for those who were taken from us too soon.
As nearly half of all people living with diagnosed HIV are 50 or older, we have a responsibility to ensure those living with HIV are protected and their needs met as they continue to age.
We can do this by amending the Older Americans Act to designate people living with HIV as a community of “greatest social need.” This designation would open up access to crucial services like meals, job training, senior centers, health promotion, benefits enrollment, caregiver support, transportation and more for people aging with HIV.
Our communities can also work together to give the next generation the chance to become an elder in the LGBTQ+ community. With younger people feeling safe to come out earlier and earlier, it is critical that we have tools in place to protect them as they age.
You can also support LGBTQ+ folks of all ages by telling your senators to pass the Equality Act. This would guarantee the legal protections the community needs to ensure equal rights for all in everything from health care to education.
Had it not been for the prolific early advocates in the LGBTQ+ movement, we may not have found the community we needed to weather the early storms of the HIV crisis. AIDS United honors and celebrates all of the LGBTQ+ elders who fought for recognition and equal rights.