Agencies host health fair
for HIV-positive older men
by Matthew S. Bajko
A number of local programs for HIV-positive men age 50 and older are hosting a wellness fair this weekend as demand for services targeted to this demographic continues to grow.
The daylong event Sunday, January 26 at Magnet, the gay men's health center in the Castro, will feature a variety of seminars focusing on such topics as aging and dermatology, depression and post-traumatic stress, memory and cognitive issues, dental health, and medications.
Attendees will also be able to meet with providers and representatives from local agencies about the services they offer. The lead sponsors are the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, of which Magnet is a part; the Silver Project at 360: The Positive Care Center at UCSF; and Let's Kick ASS, which stands for AIDS Survivor Syndrome.
Dr. Malcolm John, director of 360: The Positive Care Center at UCSF, said the event is meant to "spread the word about aging in general" and to highlight the Silver Project he oversees. The research study is open to HIV-positive men over 50 and older who receive their health care through UCSF.
In 2010 the California HIV/AIDS Research Program of the University of California awarded grants totaling $6.4 million to five California health care provider organizations to study a new model of health care delivery designed to improve the quality of care and reduce costs for people with HIV/AIDS.
The first patient-centered medical home research project in the United States focused on people with HIV/AIDS, the grant program is focused on how to create a community-based system of care, treatment, prevention, and support services that provides coordinated, high quality, client-centered services.
The aim of the Silver Project is to test new models of integrated HIV and aging care services to address the complex needs of persons 50 years and older living with HIV. It is a collaborative effort between the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the UCSF Positive Health Program at San Francisco General Hospital, and 360: The Positive Care Center at UCSF.
"The reality is 1.15 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and getting older with HIV. We need to understand the issues in the population," said John.
The UCSF center has enrolled more than 150 of its patients into the project, while the SF General program has signed up 180. It will be seeking to sign up additional participants this summer or early fall; those men who are patients at UCSF interested in enrolling will be able to sign up during the wellness fair.
Once enrolled the participants undergo a baseline assessment to determine the severity of their health needs. The questions cover routine topics like physical and mental health, oral health, and sexual health, but also include such things as access to food, risk for falling, and past sexual abuse.
"All those issues need to be factored in," said John.
Depending on their assessment results, the participants are then divided into three groups. Those doing relatively well are placed in the wellness group and are given basic services.
The others are placed either in the moderate or intensive groups and receive more specialized attention. Their care providers will meet weekly, said John, to determine "what are their needs above and beyond routine care maintenance."
Based on the preliminary findings from the current Silver Project participants, John said, "What we saw is a need for medical programs that integrate aging with HIV care."
He acknowledged that it requires "a lot of work to integrate into our medical model and make this part of routine annual care."
In the coming months the Silver Project will begin testing two strategies with certain cohorts of participants that are dealing with depression and issues of loneliness and isolation. One is a peer-to-peer support group that the Shanti Project is assisting with; the other is a home-based, individualized visit with a psychiatrist.
"For things like loneliness and isolation, those are things not well characterized. We don't have the interventions to affectively address that for patients," said John.
The wellness fair is free and open to the public. Food and light refreshments will be provided. It runs from 1 to 5 p.m., Sunday, January 26 at Magnet, 4122 18th Street, San Francisco. To RSVP online visit http://tinyurl.com/mllnczn.