Positive Life NSW Blog

Rethinking PLHIV and LGBTI Ageing in Australia

Posted by on in Housing Support

Positive Life's new Housing Support Officer reflects on the inclusion of PLHIV in the ageing care sector in Australia.

Image: three older people sit in a living room - a man in a green suit, a woman in a pink blouse and a man in a brown shirt

I recently had the privilege of attending, “It’s About Time” which was the Third National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care conference in Melbourne. As the newest member to the Positive Life team I enjoyed seeing such passion and drive from the many organisations and affiliates from the HIV and LGBTI sectors who are eager to be involved in giving these issues some momentum.

I enjoyed the presentation by Dr Eric Glare of Living Positive Victoria who shared his personal experience of living with HIV associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND). Some of the difficulties he experienced included slowed thinking, finding words, memory and clumsiness and he shared his personal strategies he’s developed. Positive Life has published the HAND report in 2016 and we will soon be publishing a resource for PLHIV as well as a resource for friends and family of someone who has diagnosed HAND.

Many of our gay and lesbian friends including people living with HIV (PLHIV) have lived full lives only to feel pushed back in the closet once they enter an aged care service due to discrimination and bullying. I heard stories at the conference about the isolation people can feel when moving to an aged care facility despite it being at full capacity.

Aged care facilities provided by faith based organisations or staffed by people are typically unfamiliar with either LGBTI concerns or have limited exposure to people living with HIV(PLHIV). This lack of exposure feeds into misinformation and ignorance, which in turn promotes many HIV myths and stigma. These unfortunately negatively impact PLHIV. However, there’s a fresh breeze a blowing and change is in the air.

Professor Gillian Triggs, the former president of the Human Rights Commission of Australia highlighted the laws currently in place to protect and support the LGBTI community. She stated it is unlawful for any aged care facility, including faith based centres who receive government funding, to discriminate against a person on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status under Federal law. All aged care providers are required to comply with this legislation.

We heard from a leading aged care facility, who have begun training their staff in LGBTI sensitivity and needs. In addition, they hold a special event during Mardi Gras season where all their residents, family and friends are welcome to celebrate. ASHM have also made available a resource titled 'Aged Care Workers and HIV and Ageing' to assist workers in the aged care industry. The booklet aims to bust myths and explain how HIV affects the ageing process. Treatments for HIV, stigma and discrimination and infection prevention and control in the workplace are also included

Workers who seek employment in the aged care industry are required to have at minimum a Cert 3 or 4 in Aged Care and there is a push for LGBTI diversity training to be included in both certificates. This would also benefit people who receive care at home by a qualified carer. The inclusion of HIV as part of these training modules and the specific needs of PLHIV must be a strong component of this education.

The introduction of the 'Rainbow Tick' is also a great indicator to assist LGBTI in choosing an aged care facility or service. The Rainbow Tick consists of six standards against which services can formally be accredited to demonstrate LGBTI inclusive practice and service delivery. However, there appears to be a need for sexual health to be included in the Rainbow Tick Accreditation, not just a focus on sex and sexuality. Hopefully this will be included in future versions.

The documentary “Gen Silent” was played (click here to view it on Youtube). This documentary from the USA introduced us to a group of LGBTI seniors as they share their experiences in surviving the care system. It’s both emotional (bring tissues) and inspirational (bring a flute of bubbly) as we share their journey of discrimination, isolation and acceptance.

I enjoyed the presentation by our sister agency, Living Positive Victoria, who shared the results of their ‘HIV across the Ages’ initiative (click here to view it on YouTube). Here we were introduced to a group of men living with HIV who have been living with HIV since the 80’s swapping stories with young men who have been recently diagnosed. I thought this initiative provides the viewer with a great deal of understanding and perspective. Living Positive Victoria will be sharing this video on-line in the near future on their website.

I found the Ageing and Aged Care conference an interesting and informative conference and I look forward to meeting many of you as the new Housing Officer here with Positive Life NSW.

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