Two Allies Are Better As One

JustUs Health and Training to Serve work together to provide better services to HIV positive seniors.

In a world where seniors are still denied health services and living communities because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, allies for seniors living with HIV are crucial. JustUs Health and Training to Serve are two allies that made an immense difference for GLBT seniors on their own, but together, they are unstoppable.

Phil Duran, JustUs Health legal director of health care access, says roughly half of JustUs Health’s clients who are HIV positive are 50 years or older, so they have been searching for new ways to properly service these individuals’ health needs.

“Over the years, Training To Serve had developed a curriculum designed to educate providers of senior services on how best to work with LGBT seniors. Often, these audiences needed very basic orientation to terminology, history, and similar concepts related to the LGBT community—material that JustUs Health has already been producing,” Duran says. “Training To Serve has developed new, specific programming around topics such as dementia awareness in the LGBT context which will be new to JustUs Health. And JustUs Health is also able to expand the curriculum centered on aging to include HIV awareness, particularly as more people living with HIV are living longer and dealing with the combined affects of aging and long-term HIV treatments.”

The two decided to merge because JustUs Health was looking for services that are more suitable for senior clients living with HIV, and TTS was looking for ways to go beyond their current training services to help improve the lives of GLBT seniors.

Duran says he’s heard many stories from clients about being denied health services due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, especially those who are looking for senior care or housing.

“Many LGBT seniors wrestle going back into the closet out of survival and fear that, as people who are dependent on others for care, they may not be treated well—or at all—by staff and facilities,” he says. “Another challenge coming as baby boomers age are from those whom are very out LGBT senior citizens that require services from people who’d never thought about how to serve them or the issues that are unique to them.”

JustUs Health researcher Dylan Flunker co-authored a report on the experiences and perceptions of transgender older adults in Minnesota. Duran says the results are heartbreaking.

“Disturbingly, some participants described suicide as being far preferable to embarking on the task of finding appropriate services in what they believe to be a very unwelcoming senior-service system. And a recent AARP study found that transgender people disproportionately tend to live in small towns and rural areas. These are also areas where unfamiliarity with transgender people can feed into discomfort, bias, and discrimination,” Duran says.

While many GLBT seniors feel hopeless when it comes to finding appropriate care, JustUs Health and TTS are working to end the stigma and fears that these seniors are subjected to today.

“JustUs Health’s mission will continue to be focused on clients who are living with HIV and on LGBTQ health issues, but we also plan to fully integrate aging-related issues into all areas of the organization. Our ultimate hope is that all LGBTQ people and people affected by HIV will be able to access quality, effective healthcare, in equitable settings, wherever they live in Minnesota,” Duran says. “Second, we hope clients and care providers alike will look to JustUs Health as a valued and trusted resource for help. And finally, JustUs Health is exploring
ways to expand both our direct-service and public-policy offerings to advocate for the concerns facing LGBT seniors.”

Beginning this year, TTS will fully merge with JustUs Health, though its name will remain as a component of JustUs Health’s education programming. For more information, visit www.justushealth.mn.

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