HIV is a lifelong condition and many people lead long, happy and healthy lives. As treatments have improved, so has the quality of people’s lives with HIV. This means that there is a growing population who are now getting older with HIV.
People who are fifty and over are the fastest growing group of people living with HIV in the UK. Nearly half of people accessing HIV care are 45 and over (47.8%), 15.5% are 55 and over and 4% are over 65. This has almost doubled in the last decade, in 2005, 25% of people were 45 and over.
Although HIV now defines as a chronic, manageable condition, for people diagnosed earlier than the mid 1990’s, the medical stance was very different and people then diagnosed with HIV may not have initially expected to live for many years. The improvement of HIV treatment options mean that people can expect to live well and to have a normal life expectancy. Research through surveys has explored the concerns and issues affecting people ageing with HIV and there were both medical and social impacts for people who are ageing with HIV
In terms of medical concerns there is a shared sense of uncertainty about the long term effects of medication. In terms of co-morbidities, people over fifty and living with HIV are twice as likely to have additional health problems and two thirds are taking medication for other conditions.
Socially, people ageing with HIV have reported experiencing higher social isolation than their peers and less likely to have significant savings or to be home owners. Discrimination and stigma were highlighted also, with 1 in 3 people reporting HIV-related discrimination. In addition, 60% of older people in the UK generally agree that age discrimination affects their lives. One of the key concerns raised by people who are fifty and over is that HIV can be misperceived as a condition which only impacts younger people, this can at times result in people being diagnosed late. Whilst 40% of HIV diagnoses are late, this increases to 53% of people who are 45 and over.
It’s important to recognise that not everyone who is ageing with HIV is disadvantaged and many people fifty and over are living well and fulfilling lives unaided, however it’s also essential to acknowledge the reality of many people’s lives and to support them to live independently and well. Although older people living with HIV have their own unique set of fears, concerns and needs both for now and in the future, with the right advice, support and action, people can empower themselves to face the challenges of ageing with HIV.
Health, Wealth and Happiness is a project at George House Trust which provides opportunities for people who are fifty and over to gain information, volunteer and to contribute to the services and social care agencies within their local community.
You can discuss any concerns you may have about ageing and living with HIV in detail with a George House Trust adviser. Telephone or book an appointment securely online.