One result of the many improvements in the treatment and management of HIV is the growing number of people living and ageing with HIV. With this comes the natural desire for people to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.

We have seen a monumental change in the experience of HIV today with new treatment options and increased understanding within the LGBTI community for older people living with HIV. However, their lived experiences are from a time when stigma and discrimination impacted on their ability to openly live their sexuality and gender identities, and disclose their HIV status.

ACON’s Home Based Support Coordinator Shane Campbell says: “Your home is a sanctuary and should be where we can most be ourselves. We see older LGBTI people reluctant to access support and allow people into their home out of confidentiality and privacy concerns, even when it is greatly needed and would assist their ongoing independence. Sadly it is not uncommon for people to seek to ‘de-gay’ their homes by removing personal items, pictures and even hiding away HIV medications.”

A number of services understand this and can assist in finding trusted and non-judgemental support providers. ACON’s Care Coordination Service and the HIV Community teams understand the needs of people living longer term with HIV and current changes impacting them, such as the roll out of the NDIS and accessing appropriate services and supports within their own home.

ACON’s home based support services, such as the Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) and Community Support Network, utilise trained volunteers who are community members or allies. These services are making a real difference with empathetic volunteer visitors providing not just practical support but also some friendly company.

“It can be daunting asking for help and it’s natural to feel a little vulnerable having services coming into your home,” Campbell says.

“For many of our clients this is the first time they have asked for help, and once they get to know one of our workers over a cuppa before rolling up the sleeves and getting stuck into cleaning the bathroom or a load of laundry, they are put at ease and more likely to accept other home care services in the future.

“It’s not all about medical and practical home support. Social interaction is golden.”

When the need for more intensive home and personal care or residential aged care becomes a reality, how HIV-aware and LGBTI-friendly agencies are becomes an area of concern.

ACON has already delivered considerable training to homecare and residential aged care services to increase the awareness amongst aged care workers of the needs and lived experience of PLHIV and older LGBT people, but there is likely to be an ongoing need for such training.

“As people live longer with HIV, it’s important they are able to access appropriate services and support so they can continue to lead healthy, productive and independent lives,” Campbell says.

For more information on ACON’s ageing services, please visit: www.acon.org.au/what-we-are-here-for/ageing

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