“Internalized gay ageism” can be defined as “the sense that one feels denigrated or depreciated because of aging in the context of a gay male identity.” Stigma due to orientation, age, race/ethnicity, and gender identity can result in several poor health outcomes in this population.
“Stigma results in social isolation, either through rejection by social network members or self-protective withdrawal, leading to loneliness and, ultimately, depression,” Dr. Brennan-Ing explained. “Stigma also makes people reluctant to disclose their HIV status, which could affect their health care treatment or prevent them taking precautions to reduce transmission.”
Believing in negative stereotypes associated with aging can also increase stress, which could have poor physical implications. “If an individual believes that aging leads to inevitable health problems and decline, that person may stop engaging in healthy behaviors, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy,” according to the press release.
“These mechanisms may be responsible for empirical findings that internalized ageism is related to both chronic disease and longevity,” Dr. Brennan-Ing said.
Fortunately, community-level actions to address ageism for those who are at risk for or infected by HIV may help. Dr. Brennan-Ing recommended the following activities, according to the press release:
- Training health providers in HIV screening, early diagnosis, and initiation of antiretroviral therapy in older populations and integration of key services
- Prevention, education, and outreach targeting older adults
- Treatment guidelines for older individuals with HIV
- Funding in line with the aging of the epidemic
- Engagement of communities, community-based organizations, and social service providers in outreach, mental health, and social support
- Addressing the needs of special populations
“With the demographic shift toward adults in the HIV population globally, and the elusiveness of a cure, addressing the care needs of this aging population are paramount.” Dr Brannan-Ing stressed.
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