There seems to be a day dedicated to just about everything. Sometimes the days are a little frivolous, like National Napping Day (March 9) or Wear Something Gaudy Day (October 17). We all love a good nap, but other commemorative days are far more important.
September 18 is HIV and Aging Awareness Day. Empath Health and EPIC, Tampa Bay’s largest nonprofit HIV services and support provider, have joined forces to create a program for seniors – EPIC Generations.
The purpose of EPIC Generations, say organizers, is to respond to the challenges facing LGBTQ elders in Pinellas County, including disseminating information about how rampant the virus has become throughout older communities.
According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly half of people living with HIV in the United States are 50 or older.
Condom use declines without the possibility of pregnancy, says Empath, and health care providers may also be less likely to test older patients for HIV infection.
On Friday, September 18, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m Gulfport Library hosted EPIC and Empath Health as they set up a mobile HIV testing unit in the library parking lot.
They offered free, rapid HIV tests, with results in 15 minutes or less, along with information to debunk myths and help stop the spread of HIV, as well as homeless outreach.
“An HIV diagnosis was once a death sentence,” said Susan Talbott, EPIC Generations LGBTQ Community Support Counselor. “New drug treatment options and preventative measures have made HIV a manageable chronic condition.”
Prevention and education are the best medicine.
“Knowing your status can help you and others,” said Talbott. “Age is not a condom.”
Along with onsite and mobile testing, EPIC also offers at home testing. Individuals can either pick up their at home testing kits in person at one of EPIC’s four locations or have a test mailed to their home address.
To combat feelings of loneliness or hopelessness, EPIC Generations also offers a Friendly Caller program. The program provides social connection and service referrals for LGBTQ elders through regular phone calls.
“Approximately 76% of LGBTQ elders express concerns about having needed support as they age, as they often do not have children and are more likely to be estranged from their families,” said Talbott.
More information on services and resources provided by EPIC and EPIC Generations can be found at MyEPIC.org.
To enroll in EPIC Generations’ Friendly Caller Program, or for volunteer opportunities, contact Susan Talbott at 727-328-5524 or SusanTalbott@EmpathHealth.org.