Friday, June 14, 2019

HIV Long Term Survivors Meet to Celebrate Aging Positively

By Chandra Wilson

Wednesday, June 5th is designated as national HIV Long Term Survivors Awareness Day. The Long Term Survivors Wellness Coalition, a New York-based coalition dedicated to identifying and addressing the needs of people in the long-term survivor community hosted the event, “We’re Still Here!,” a day-long celebration. 

The Long-Term Survivors Wellness Coalition, which consists of representation from the  NYC Health Department, The New York  City  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, SAGE Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders, ACRIA, GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), and, was formed two years ago by AIDS activists and original ACT UP members, Andy Velez and Timothy Lunceford-Stevens, who envisioned a collaborative of HIV/AIDS service organizations and individuals.
HIV long-term survivors experience unique circumstances and special needs. They are pioneering the experience of aging with HIV and all its attendant challenges: medication management, drug interactions and side effects, comorbidities, maintaining good mental health and sexual wellness. They are a population of great resiliency and strength. Recently the New York City Department of Health held multiple focus groups throughout the City to explore gaps in care for this underserved population.

Timothy Lunceford-Stevens led attendees in a moment of silence in recognition of the recent death of the coalition’s co-founder, Any Velez. 
“As long-term survivors of HIV, we know how to be strong, resilient, and advocate for our health,” said Graham Harriman, MA, Director of the Care and Treatment Program at the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. “Today we come together to celebrate in a spirit of radical self-love, knowing that in order to support each other and nurture a world that embraces all of us living with and affected by HIV, we need to start being mindful of our bodies, our diet, our mental health, our relationships, and our ability to be present with each other as a community.”

“As the number of long-term survivors throughout New York continues to grow,” said Oni Blackstock, MD, MHS, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control in her opening remarks. “The Bureau remains steadfast in our commitment to both prevent and treat HIV/AIDS among all New Yorkers.”

Highlights of the celebration, which took place at the Baruch College Vertical Campus Conference Center, included a Long-term survivors panel discussion and an unveiling of GMHC/ACRIA’s new National Resource Center on HIV and Aging, by Stephen Karpiak, PhD, International AIDS Society member and Associate Director for Research at the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America’s (ACRIA/GMHC) ACRIA’s Center on HIV and Aging, and Associate Faculty at New York University.

The Long Term Survivor’s Wellness Coalition panel discussion was moderated by Ed Shaw, a founding member and Chair Emeritus of the Consumer Advisory Board at GMHC, who has dedicated more than 25 years to educating and organizing to raise awareness about the particular needs of seniors at risk or living with HIV/AIDS. The panel included Nationally recognized writer, speaker and long-time HIV/AIDS activist, Tez Anderson, founder of “Lets Kick ASS—AIDS Survivor Syndrome;” Julia Sanchez, a Certified Peer Worker and Facilitator for The Positive Life Workshop at The Family Center; Octavia Y. Lewis, MPA, a transgender woman of color living with HIV who works as an activist, advocate, mother and scholar, and is currently a Community Ambassador with AmidaCare; and Billy Fields, a former AT&T manager and advocate appointed to the NYC HIV Planning Council by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and current Mayor Bill De Blasio.

“Helping long-term survivors of HIV—both men and women—feel confident, proud and supported, with access to the health care they need to live full and active lives is what the coalition strives to do,” said Arthur Fitting, RN, LGBT Program Manager at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Other members of the Long-Term Survivor’s Wellness Coalition in attendance were: Stephen Karpiak, Gregg Bruckno, Timothy Lunceford, Vanessa Gonzalez, Bill Gross, Graham Harriman, Scott Spiegler, Sarah Kozlowski and Rafael Ponce.

Several awards presentations were made to advocates and members of the Coalition, and networking and breakout activates were held throughout the day focusing on food, cooking, nutrition and wellness demonstrations from Sophia Medinsky, RD at Heritage House, art therapy (by VisualAIDS), Yoga/Meditation (by Safiya Hassan), a sexual wellness discussion (by August Eckhardt from The Pleasure Chest) and a DJ, photo booth, dinner and dancing. The films Last Men Standing (documentary from San Francisco Chronicle) and Never Alone, developed by the Long View Coalition were also screened.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Helpful Information about When to Visit Urgent Care Versus the Emergency Department

Monte Urgent Care Offers Alternative to ER Visit

By Dr. Amanda Parsons, Vice President of Community & Population Health at Montefiore Health System

HEALTH- Have you ever had a serious health problem and wanted to go see a doctor, but couldn’t get an appointment with your usual primary care provider so you ended up going to the Emergency Room instead? You are not alone. 

At Montefiore, we estimate roughly half of the visits that come to our Emergency Department could have been safely addressed in primary care or in Urgent Care centers. However, many patients are not familiar with Urgent Care or the services they provide.

Montefiore has three Urgent Care centers that are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They are open late (from 2 pm to 10:15 pm on weeknights) and on weekends (8:45 am to 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday). These sites feature high-quality board-certified doctors who can treat children and adults. They can also do a range of procedures on-site including lab tests, X-rays, nebulizers, splints, and stitches. 

For patients without life-threatening issues, Urgent Care centers can usually provide faster service than Emergency Departments while providing high-quality care. Montefiore Urgent Care sites accept all major insurances, including Managed Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, and Fee-for-Service Medicaid.

So, if you're feeling unsure about using Urgent Care instead of the Emergency Department, here are some facts you should know:

1. Habit and Comfort

• Many people are familiar with the high-quality care and one-stop-shop experience they get at the Montefiore Emergency Department. We want our patients to know they can get the same great care for their serious, but not life-threatening, issues.

2. Fear

• Feeling ill or having a sick loved one can be a very scary experience. Some people feel more comfortable knowing that the Emergency Room has lots of staff and services. However, Montefiore’s Urgent Care centers also have well-trained staff, services and the equipment necessary to deal with urgent but non-life threatening problems.

3. Medical Records

• Some people choose to go to the Montefiore Emergency Room because they know the clinical team will have access to their electronic medical records. The good news is that the Montefiore Urgent Care sites use the same medical records as the Montefiore Emergency Rooms, hospital and primary care settings, so they can look up the same historical information. This helps reduce the number of questions patients have to answer about their medical histories, and also helps makes sure that prior test results are available for consideration or comparison.

4. Answering Machines

• Some doctor’s offices, when closed, have an answering machine message saying the office is closed and that if you need attention, you should go to the Emergency Room. This is true if you have a life-threatening emergency (like severe chest pain, sudden paralysis, serious burns or broken bones), but if you have more minor issues like an asthma exacerbation, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, cold or flu, muscle pain or a cut, you can go to Urgent Care instead.

So next time you or a loved one has a serious, but not life-threatening medical problem and you can’t get to your primary care provider, please consider visiting one of our Urgent Care sites:

1. Grand Concourse: 2532 Grand Concourse, Bronx NY 10458 (Between East Fordham Rd & E 192nd Street) Phone: 718-960-1569

2. Bronx East: 2300 Westchester Avenue, Bronx NY 10462 (Between Havemeyer Ave & Glover St) Phone: 718-409-8888

3. Cross County: 1010 Central Park Ave, Yonkers NY 10704 (Entrance on Allen Ave N) Phone: 914-964-4111

If you can’t get to one of those, Montefiore has a partnership with City MD. City MD has over 110 locations across New York and New Jersey including Bronx and Westchester. Visit for all locations and hours.

Learn more about when to use the emergency room at our first Emergency Department Utilization event in partnership with community boards 9, 10, and 11 on Tuesday, June 18th from 6-8 pm at the Morris Park Community Association Office (1824 Bronxdale Avenue). I will be representing the Montefiore Office of Community & Population Health in conversation with a local city council member and Dr. Frank Illuzzi, physician and Chief Medical Director of City MD.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

10 LGBT Healthcare Issues You Don’t Know About

LGBTQ Pride is an Ageless and Essential Human Right 

By Arthur Fitting, RN, LGBT Program Director, Visiting Nurse Service of New York

HEALTH- There’s an old adage: “With age comes wisdom.” Applying that adage to our current healthcare environment is the next great challenge for all of us in the LGBT community—especially those of us in the Stonewall generation who fought to gain acceptance and rights that were once unimaginable. 

We’ve come such a long way since the days when being gay, lesbian or bisexual was considered criminal, sacrilegious or mentally ill behavior. Now we need to ensure that the healthcare industry completes that journey with us—and there’s no better time to focus on this challenge than right now, as we kick off World Pride 2019 and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

Based on data from SAGE (Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders), the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older people, there are approximately three million LGBT adults over the age of 50 in the U.S., and that number is expected to grow to around seven million by the year 2030. As with all age groups, we, as members of the older LGBT population, face our own specific health concerns. According to SAGE:

• LGBT elders are twice as likely to be single and living alone;

• we are far more likely than our heterosexual peers to have faced discrimination, social stigma and the effects of prejudice;

• 34 percent of older LGBT individuals fear they’ll have to re-closet themselves when seeking senior housing;

• nearly 60 percent report feeling a lack of companionship; and

• LGBT elders are also hesitant to trust health care providers after decades of bullying, discrimination and verbal or physical abuse. 

As a registered nurse working on the front lines for nearly 30 years, I’ve tried to face these disparities head on. And while we’ve come a long way with rights like marriage and adoption, we need to keep going, especially where health care is concerned. 

Today, many older LGBT people still find it difficult to find a physician or other healthcare professional they feel comfortable talking to. As a result, they often avoid seeking care until faced with an emergency situation.

My goal as LGBT Program Director for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) is to work with my colleagues to help bridge this gap. A good starting point is New York City’s LGBTQ  Health Care Bill of Rights. First announced one year ago by Dr. Mary Travis Bassett, MD, MPH, New York City’s Commissioner of Health, this is a critical piece of healthcare information that empowers those of us in the LGBT community to take responsibility for our own health. It lays out 10 important legal rights that every older LGBTQ person can assert, in any health care situation. 

The LGBTQ Health Care Bill of Rights

In any health care setting or health care interaction, you have the right to:

1. Be treated with dignity, respect and professionalism by all providers and all staff.

2. Receive compassionate, judgement-free and comprehensive care that is mindful of your sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

3. Respectful discussions with providers about your health and health care needs, including your sexual history and current sex life.

4. Have your gender identity and gender expression recognized, affirmed, documented and accommodated.

5. Clear explanations of requests for your health information.

6. Clear explanations of all medical procedures and risks, and the right to choose or refuse any treatment.

7. Access health insurance coverage and benefits without discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

8. Choose who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable. If you are a minor, you have the right to have your voice heard and best interests included in these decisions.

9. Decide who may and may not visit you if you are admitted to a health care facility.

10. Privacy and confidentiality.

As a nurse, I’ve met so many LGBT people—of all ages—who still live in fear, and to whom these basic rights have been withheld, miscommunicated or culturally garbled, much like that old game of “telephone.” But it doesn’t have to be that way—which is why my colleagues and I are working so hard to educate our fellow New Yorkers about these rights, as well as the steps people can take to ensure they are upheld.

In particular, everyone should know that New York City provides several options for anyone who feels that their rights have been denied. If you believe you have been mistreated or denied care because of your sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, you can call The New York City Commission on Human Rights at 718-722-3131, or call 311, or file a complaint online to report discrimination (

Maintaining our health and navigating the healthcare system can be a difficult balancing act—especially as we age. Please keep this information close at hand, and remember, we should never get sick due to silence or fear!

Have a Healthy, Happy and Safe Pride Month! And remember, your right to quality health care without discrimination is what we stand for 365 days a year!