Caring for the Stonewall Generation is the Newest Addition to Agency’s Health Equity Work

An aging HIV-positive community continues to be disproportionately affected by lack of services and cultural competency in healthcare

Originally Published: 12/09/2019

JustUs Health announced that it will launch new initiatives focused on advocacy and support for elders in the LGBTQ community as well as those who are aging with HIV or AIDS. Individuals commonly known as the Stonewall Generation, or those who were in their 20s and 30s at the time of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, are now at retirement age in a healthcare environment that is not well equipped to deal with the lived experiences of openly LGBTQ people.

More than half of people living with HIV or AIDS in the United States are at or above the age of 50, with projections of as many as 70 percent by the early 2020s, experience aging in different ways than HIV-negative people. Differences experienced include medical needs and concerns of quality of care as well as pervasive stigma and misinformation. Many providers included in caring for seniors are underprepared to serve HIV-positive people well.

In November 2018, JustUs Health incorporated Training to Serve education programs into its training curriculum. Since 2008, Training to Serve has educated thousands of senior care service providers on how best to serve older LGBTQ people. JustUs has expanded this curriculum to include issues facing elders who are living with HIV.

“Historically, LGBTQ individuals have had difficulty turning to traditional family structures or faith-based organizations for support due to estrangement from family or faith tradition, or experiences of discrimination and maltreatment,” said Jeremy Hanson Willis, CEO of JustUs Health. “To combat this and bring increased health equity to our community, we plan to expand our programs, services, and advocacy as we move into 2020 to respond to the growing needs of older LGBTQ and HIV-positive Minnesotans. These communities need support to build community connections, offer options for quality care, provide direct senior services, and advocate for sound public policy.”

JustUs Health will lead a community-informed plan to improve heath equity for LGBTQ seniors and people aging with HIV through four primary initiatives:

  • Building Community Connections: reduce isolation that contributes to worsening health problems by working to build stronger social community among and for older LGBTQ and HIV-positive people.
  • Expanding Options for Quality Care: strengthen our training curriculum for community members and professional care providers to ensure LGBTQ and HIV-positive people have equitable access to a continuum of senior services in their community.
  • Advocating for Public Policy: organize and amplify the voices of LGBTQ and HIV-positive older adults to advocate for fair and equitable public policy.
  • Direct Senior Services: work with older adults to identify and fill gaps related to their needs through the addition of services which will center on areas the marketplace is not adequately providing.

Introducing Sheryl

Each of the components of this initiative are designed with people like Sheryl in mind. In 2019, JustUs Health met Sheryl, a lesbian and former schoolteacher who needed support that other agencies were not equipped to provide. After being notified her healthcare plan was being terminated, she turned to the MNSure Navigators at JustUs Health to help find the best options, all while her true, authentic self was valued and respected.

Listen to Sheryl tell her story in her own words.

Stories like Sheryl’s as well as the growth of community-affirming outcomes from serving older LGBTQ people are the focal point for expanding care to those people who are aging with HIV and the LGBTQ senior community for JustUs Health.

Starting in 2020 JustUs Health will deliver public events to address creating awareness as well as raising the needed funds to launch these services.