APLA Health's new program HIV Elders addresses unique needs of older generation with HIV

Denise Dador Image
Friday, September 20, 2019
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A new APLA Health program called HIV Elders is helping address the specific needs of those with HIV who are older in age.

Thanks to medications, more and more people are living longer with HIV.

On "National HIV Aging Awareness Day," which was on Wednesday, advocates called attention to the challenges for those living with HIV treatment as they grow older.

Frank Gulli, 68, of Hollywood has a cabinet full of medication.

"This is what keeps me alive, I take a total of 14 different pills every day," he said.

The most important pills are the ones he has been taking since he was diagnosed with HIV in 1985.

"I was in ground zero for the AIDS crisis," Gulli said.

Like many living with HIV, Gulli must take anti-viral meds for the rest of his life. It's a task that can become a challenge for aging patients dealing with memory issues.

"If you fail three times or more. There's a possibility that the meds will no longer be effective," Gulli said.

In 2020, half of people living with HIV will be over 50. In 2030, that number will grow to 75%.

Emmanuel Sanchez-Ramos runs the HIV Elders program, also known as HIVE. It's part of APLA Health.

"We are targeting specific factors such as stigma, isolation, depression and ageism," he said. "We've created health education classes, life skills workshops. We are doing social community outings."

Outside Gulli's apartment window is a gorgeous view of the famed Hollywood sign. This is housing most of his neighbors would never be able to afford on their own.

Gulli said, "Most of the people in our building are considered low income."

The Triangle Square Apartments in Hollywood is the first community housing facility dedicated to LGBTQ residents over the age of 62. It's a model for other cities.

"You kind of develop a sense of community and you look after people," Gulli said.

"We want men to come to a space and feel that they're family," Sanchez-Ramos said.

Money raised through AIDS Walk Los Angeles, held this year on Oct. 20, will help fund the HIVE program.

"The HIV Elders program provides a tremendous amount of services for us," Gulli said.

Breakthroughs in treatment are keeping more and more people living with HIV alive, and programs like HIVE are helping patients like Gulli thrive.

"These are things we have to deal with as we age," he said.