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Senator Laird Introduces Legislation to Ensure Access to Targeted Services for Older People Living with HIV
“Ensuring older Californians living with HIV are considered those with the greatest social need means healthcare and other important services will be more readily available to them.”
January 27, 2021 at 10:17 am

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January 27, 2021

CONTACT: Joshua Stickney, Equality California
PHONE: (323) 848-9801/MOBILE: (405) 315-4151/EMAIL: press@eqca.org

SACRAMENTO — Filing his first piece of legislation as a member of the California Senate, Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) introduced SB 258, the HIV & Aging Act, which would update the definition of “greatest social need” in the Welfare and Institutions Code to include older people living with HIV. The HIV & Aging Act would ensure older people living with HIV — who are likely to turn to government and community-based services due to multiple comorbidities, behavioral and mental health issues and limited social support — have access to the programs and services administered through the California Department of Aging. Following Illinois in 2019, California would be only the second state to designate older adults with HIV as a target population of “greatest social need.” The legislation is co-sponsored by Equality California, SAGE, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and APLA Health.

“Ensuring older Californians living with HIV are considered among those with the greatest social need means important programs and services will be more readily available to them,” said State Sen. John Laird (D-Santa Cruz). “I have fought nearly my entire adult life to ensure people can live and age with dignity and respect. SB 258 is an extension of that work.”

With recent advancements in HIV treatment, people with HIV who take antiretroviral therapy can keep the virus suppressed and live long and healthy lives. For this reason, the number of older people living with HIV is increasing and over half of people living with HIV in California are now aged 50 years or older. However, older people with HIV continue to face unique challenges and barriers in health and well-being. A 2020 report by SAGE’s HIV and Aging Policy Action Coalition (HAPAC) identified that older people with HIV are more likely than their HIV-negative counterparts to have multiple comorbidities, including certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, fractures, and hepatitis C. Older people with HIV also face a number of behavioral health challenges, including rates of depression up to five times greater than their HIV-negative peers and greater levels of stigma, social isolation and loneliness.

“Californians living with HIV — many of whom survived the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic — are still in dire need of support,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “While many older people with HIV are thriving and living healthy lives, it’s up to us to ensure that they have access to the critical care and resources they deserve. Just as our state includes LGBTQ+ people as a population of ‘greatest social need,’ so should we ensure that older people living with HIV are supported. We are grateful to have Senator Laird back in Sacramento fighting for the LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV.”

“SAGE applauds Senator Laird and his colleagues for introducing this important and timely legislation. More than half of people in the United States with diagnosed HIV are aged 50 and older,” said Aaron Tax, Director of Advocacy at SAGE. “As we celebrate the fact that people are aging with HIV, we also recognize that they are not always getting the aging services and supports that they need to remain independent. We are glad that the Senate is tackling this important issue and ensuring that older people living with HIV will have the support they need to age with the dignity they deserve.”

“As the largest provider of LGBTQ-specific services in the world and the only program within the City of Los Angeles’ Aging Services system that provides comprehensive services, including HIV care, specifically for the LGBTQ community, the Los Angeles LGBT Center is ardently supports this timely and urgent bill,” said Kiera Pollock, Los Angeles LGBT Center director of senior services. “The Center receives more than 50,000 client visits each month; LGBTQ seniors are our fastest growing client population, with the vast majority of them impacted by social isolation, economic insecurity, and physical health disparities. And, more than half of the people diagnosed with HIV in the United States are over the age of 50. We praise Senator Laird for taking action to help California take the lead in ensuring older people living with HIV have the support they need to be cared for and live with dignity.”

“Thanks to effective treatments, people with HIV are living longer than we could have ever imagined just a few decades ago. The majority of people with HIV in California are now over 50 years old. Unfortunately, our current health and social service systems are ill-equipped to address the unique needs of this population,” said APLA Health Chief Executive Officer Craig E. Thompson. “Many older people with HIV are long term survivors of the AIDS epidemic. They have lost countless loved ones and entire networks of social support. They experience significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety and other comorbidities. They also continue to face discrimination and alarming levels of stigma. SB 258 is an important step toward ensuring that California’s aging network is prepared to support the state’s growing population of older adults with HIV. APLA Health applauds Senator Laird for championing this critical issue.”


Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ+ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org

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