kearns announces 2-part 2-year plan for HIV/AIDS & aging in assisted care facilities (003)


[thursday, august 13, 2009] good morning HIV commissioners. i have given a copy of my prepared remarks to the clerk. my name is richard kearns. i am a 58-year-old gay man living in los angeles with AIDS for more than 20 years, a long-term survivor, activist, poet, journalist & publisher of
i have lived in an assisted care facility since march of 2005.

4 years ago, when i first started my website & moved into the Hancock Park Senior Assisted Living (HPSAL) facility,
as a PWA over 50, i represented 10% of the national HIV-infected population.

today, i represent between a quarter & a third of all HIVers in the united states.

in 5 years, i will represent 60 percent of that national HIVer population. heads up: this means the proportion of elder HIVers in our community will double over the next five years.

gay seniors are twice as likely as straights to live alone, half as likely to have private insurance coverage as their straight counterparts, & 10 times less likely to have a caretaker — children or partners — should we fall ill. Older gay men and older straight women of color are at high risk for HIV infection (ewww, gross, old people doing it! [says a commenter to janet st. james’wfaa tv report about older americans with AIDS (103]), & many of us still endure the sorrows of losing so many friends & partners to AIDS.

our aging gay PWA demographic pool is a mirror opposite of what the straight aging community looks like. The average straight senior in the United States lives with one other person (spouses or children); while between 67% and 71% of gay seniors live alone. as a group, we rely heavily on an informal support network of friends, most of whom are also HIV-positive & regularly experiencing their own crises. it makes sense to house PWAs in assisted care facilities — nursing homes lite, offering a clean room & bathroom, meals, laundry & support services such as a pharmacist, enabling us to lead livable lives & contribute politically and culturallyto our communities

Four years to the month after i moved in at the HPSAL residence, in late march 2009, adminstrators claimed a bedbug infestation forced them to conduct an “emergency evacuation” (evictions with less than 24 hours’ notice) of the estimated 130 people living there. In May they informed us they were closing the facility for “repair & improvements” & that “in the best interest of the health and safety of each resident,” no one would be allowed back in. After bouncing me between 3 motels for a month, i am now relocated from Melrose & La Brea to Washington & La Brea. An hour’s travel by two busses to my doctor and hospital. It looks like a pattern of covert gentrification to me — move out the medicare-only riff raff, hike the rent and start making some real money.

Here is an opportunity to get some movement in reforming system-ebedded abuses in assisted care in los angeles, an issue i am delighted to discover that alternate commissioner jim chud has been working on for years. Here is my two-part plan to address this issue over the next two years.

First, set up a website called HAvVACc los angeles (HIV/AIDS volunteer VIrtual Assisted Care community) with a kickoff conference coordinated with September 18, National HIV/AIDS & Aging Awareness Day.

second, over the period of the next two years, i want to set up, recruit residents & move into a model HIV/AIDS specialty assisted care with half a dozen to a dozen AIDS activists by May of 2011, my 60th birthday.

I hope the commission will make this an agenda item and set up a committee or task force to work on the issue with me and stephen simon at the los angeles city coordinator’s office.
thank you

—richard kearns


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