POZ Exclusives : Preparing for the Aging HIV Epidemic - by Willette Francis

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May 12, 2010

Preparing for the Aging HIV Epidemic

by Willette Francis

A new report from GMHC details the steps necessary to prepare our health care system for the increasing 50-and-older HIV-positive population.

Adults 50 and older represent nearly one third of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. By 2015, that age group will comprise half of all HIV-positive people nationwide. Between 2001 and 2007, the 50-and-older HIV-positive population increased by more than 61 percent, growing from 17 percent to 27 percent of the overall HIV-positive population.

These facts are published in a new report from the New York City–based AIDS service organization Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) titled Growing Older With the Epidemic: Aging and HIV.



The report spells out ways that social service programs and health care providers can prepare for this expanding segment of the HIV population. Recommendations are based on what is known about HIV and older adults as well as what isn’t yet understood. The report also suggests changes to federal and local policy that would better care for this population.

The advent of modern antiretroviral (ARV) therapy in the mid–’90s has allowed HIV-positive people to live well into their 50s and beyond. But aging with HIV presents numerous concerns regarding how the virus and aging interact. Such concerns include chronic inflammation in the body, faster aging, the unknown long-term effects of treatment, the comorbidities of aging, insufficient elder care and services, and the need for better trained caregivers and professionals for the over 50 population.

“As a society we are really unprepared for the growing population of seniors who are entering the health care system…and we don’t have enough geriatric health care professions to serve them,” said Sean Cahill, PhD, managing director of public policy, research and community health at GMHC. “When you start talking about people with particular health conditions like HIV and some of the complications that come with HIV and aging, we’re absolutely not prepared.”

The report recommends that medical professionals start discussions with patients 50 and older about sexual health risk and sexual activity regarding HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. A survey of older Texans found 40 percent of patients were never or rarely asked about their risk factors for HIV by a medical professional.

For longtime survivors, further research is needed to better understand how HIV and ARVs react with the aging body. The GMHC report urges clinical researchers to explore how comorbidities affect HIV treatment, to offer more inclusive clinical trials of people 50 and older and to change the standard of care so that it encourages health care providers to screen for comorbidities typically found among patients living with HIV.

In addition, health care providers need training to address the emotional and mental health implications of living with the virus, such as stigma in the form of social isolation from family and peers.

The report also lists policy changes that might help the aging HIV population: listing HIV-positive elders and LGBT elders as vulnerable populations in the 2011 reauthorization of the Older Americans Acts (OAA), and revising the OAA to include stigma- and HIV-related educational programs for staff at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Finally, the report mentions ways that health and senior services and AIDS service organizations can better address the special needs of this burgeoning populations.  

As Cahill sums up: “The health care infrastructure, senior service infrastructure and even the HIV/AIDS organizations like GMHC need to do a better job of making sure that the services we provide are relevant and competent and work for older adults who are either at risk for HIV or living with HIV.”

Click here to read the full report.

Search: GMHC, HIV, aging, antiretroviral therapy, inflammation, caregivers, comorbidities, research, geriatric, LGBT, Older Americans Acts, Sean Cahill


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  comments 1 - 15 (of 15 total)    

Ronald, Los Angeles, 2010-06-18 13:02:46
I found out in 1984 when the Elisa Test that would detect exposure to HIV became available while on tour with 'La Cage Aux Folles.' 1990 full blown AIDS and multiple infections and health hell. 1996 HIV medicines became available and they've saved my life.nhhhhhh I reached 65 last October. In the gay male world aging is an issue anyway, so live on my brothers, be strong, put your fears in a very small locked bag, take your medicine, laugh always. My near death was an illusion. I'm still alive!

Richard, St. Louis, 2010-06-15 16:36:11
gay men but after reading these responses looks like everyone is playing the isolation game. We need to come out once again and band together in unity to make sure that us aging Poz men and women will be taken care of in proper medical ways.

Pat Johnson, Austin, 2010-06-10 01:14:41
28 yrs poz, soon to be 54, own my home, and have excellent healthcare with Medicare. I maintain a lifestyle that get by on, but I know I have best ID doc in Texas and should I die, my after death expenses have been paid already. I asked my doc how long I could expect to live without taking PI meds, not long she said, but we will do our best to keep you alive. Social outlets such as Midtowne Spa should be promoted at govt funding retirement centers.

freepozspeech, atlanta, 2010-06-02 10:16:41
i find being longterm poz that as im treated by dr's they dont treat my health but only mostly treat my disease and they donot understand what to do for longtermers who have strange ailments due to possible hiv effect on body of over 20 yrs poz, i wish more preventative care would be practiced, to keep us as healthy as we can be. we arent disposable people, we are people that can teach others how to survive . so the longer we are able to be here alive the more others can learn. so helpstayalive.

Keith, Portland, OR, 2010-06-01 22:10:48
Turning 50 was scary enough, but then I was diagnosed as being poz. I have lost all of my friends and most of my family, because they don't know what to say. I have tried to date other men my age that are poz, but it has never happened. I have isolated myself because it is easier to accept the fact that I will be alone the rest of my life than it is to face the rejection of yet another man. I have no idea what age is going to do to me as I have never been 55 before. Only time will tell.

Richard, jersey City, NJ, 2010-05-29 14:59:04
There seems to be a lot of talk of isolation in the 50+ HIV+ age group. What kind of programs should be introduced? Building and maintaining a strong social network is proven to enhance vitality. How will those who are isolated be reached? We have all learned about positive attitudes, now lets take it to the next level.

Tom, Portland, OR, 2010-05-21 18:41:20
Just turned 50 this past year. Been poz for at least 22yrs. now. I would like to see more programs to provide our age group where we can have a social outlet, and ways to give back to the community. I too find myself more isolated nowadays, and keeping a positive attitude, although challeging at times, I believe, keeps me in good health.

60 year old PLWA, Columbus Ohio, 2010-05-16 22:37:22
I've had AIDS since I was 49. Been on meds since then too. The article points out that there are services that we, the 50+ people will need. We need to tell them what we need by participating in any all surveys aimed at us. The surveys are one way of making our needs known to the people that are trying to meet our needs. I've been in 2 and will do more when they appear. Peace to all.

Nacho, Los Angeles, 2010-05-16 03:04:37
I'll be 50yrs old in July,people say I look 40yrs have stop smoking 6yrs ago and drinking 2mnths gong to AA. taking med for 16yrs still taking med. life been good to me trying to be healthy going to gym and have a positive mine,helping people. praying to God thank you for the good life I have =-)

carmen, Bronx, NY, 2010-05-14 16:45:09
I am 50 yrs old.pos since 2004 i have ups & downs with my health. it is all in the mind you have sty positive, and eat healthy. a pet is helpful too. i like to know more about 50 and over condition.thank u

Joe, Chicago, 2010-05-13 18:03:08
I'm 62 1/2 and HIV+ for 21 1/2 years...totally isolated. My circle of friends passed away years ago, and what friends I had left abandoned our friendship during the 7 yrs. I took care of my elderly Mom. I have a great companion in my dog. Human interaction would be nice. I just keep thinking positively about carrying onward, although alone, and hope that everyone knows what power there is in our minds and positive thinking, I believe, has kept me around a lot longer than I ever expected.

lillian lenox, NYC, NY, 2010-05-13 17:43:38
YES,,ITS TRUE,,I AM 68 MINESELF..AND HAVE HAD MEIN DIAGNOSOS 25 YEARS AGO..YEAH..AND I SAY..TAKE THEM PILLS FOR PRUDENT HEALTH,,YULL DO YOUR LOINS SONE GOOD, TAKE THE MEDICINE, UND HAVE A GOOD TIME IN WHOLESOME HEALTH.

Evelyn, new york. new york, 2010-05-13 14:52:01
I am 54 years old and is always wondering about what is said in the article. I have hiv for over 20 years and a few minor sicknesses. So yes what will happen ?

Sandra Kupprat, New York City, 2010-05-13 13:24:12
NYU's Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, & Prevention Studies (CHIBPS) is conducting a study of HIV-positive gay and bisexual men ages 50 and older. If you are interested in completing a confidential survey and interview, please call (212)998-5600 to see if you are eligible. We are located near Washington Square Park, have appointments from 9am-7pm and offer $50 cash compensation.

Jim Willis, Seattle, 2010-05-13 11:53:39
A very timely article. As a 50+ person with HIV/AIDS I often feel very isolated and at times ask the question how and why I'm still here; when many of my contemporaries have died. Aging is scary enough but to have this virus makes it a real challenge for those of us left behind. I salute those of us who keep going day by day into are 50+ years and wonder how golden will are remaining years be

comments 1 - 15 (of 15 total)    


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