Working with community-based organizations and clinics across the nation, the Latino Commision on AIDS, in partnership with the Hispanic Health Network, recently released a first-of-its-kind report about the needs of older Hispanics/Latinos who are living with HIV/AIDS. Citing a gap in research about this population, particularly when it comes to knowledge about older monolingual Spanish speakers and recent immigrants, and knowing that many Latinos face barriers in accessing and engaging in healthcare, the writers wanted to create a more complex and nationwide community needs assessment of this fifty-plus group (the fastest-growing aging population) and aid in better health outcomes by providing recommendations for service providers.
The result is “Olvidados: A National Health Assessment of Latinos Growing Older with HIV,” a wide-ranging report that enlisted 157 Hispanics/Latinos ages fifty to eighty, a majority of whom were not born in the U.S. and were extremely low-income. Many had not attained a formal education level above high school. Participants mostly lived in cities with high rates of HIV infection and large Latino populations, including Camuy, Fajardo, and San Juan, all in Puerto Rico, Houston and San Antonio, Texas, New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami. All individuals were somehow linked to care, so the report’s findings do not provide the full scope of the needs of this aging population, particularly those who are disengaged from care and/or do not know they are positive.
According to CDC’s 2015 statistics, Hispanics/Latinos represented about twenty-four percent of new HIV diagnoses, even though they make up only eighteen percent of the U.S. population. In addition, older Hispanics/Latinos are at greater risk of infection when compared to the non-Latino white population.
Key findings, based on quantitative and qualitative data, highlight the places where service providers could do better:
• Engagement in care to the point of viral suppression was high; most respondents reported that they were linked to a provider, had insurance coverage, and a viral load that was undetectable. However, one in four respondents on average expressed dissatisfaction with some part of their provider’s care.
• Roughly forty percent of respondents on average stated that providers asked them about health-related issues— such as mental health, cancer, substance use, sexually transmitted infections, and violence—during visits within the last six months.
• Treatment adherence proved to be an issue for one in three respondents.
• Though nearly half of the respondents (forty-three percent) reported sexual activity within the last three months, they infrequently engaged in dialogue with their provider about sexual health.
• Dialogues with providers about substance use were also infrequent. Substance use among the respondents was low and twelve percent stated that they were in recovery.
• Depression was reported by half of the survey respondents.