Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) have launched a study to discover the best comprehensive care methods for people living with HIV as they get older. In a news article by the university about the project, the study's leaders explain they will be integrating the expertise of specialists in geriatric medicine with that of infectious disease experts to address the fact that HIV-positive people are experiencing age-related problems at a younger age than HIV-negative people.

“I know I'm getting older,” Lou Grosso, a 57-year-old UCSF HIV clinic patient, said in the article. “So is that why I have the aches and pains and memory issues? Or is it because I have been taking all those antiretroviral drug cocktails that have been keeping me alive all these years? I never thought I would live this long to ask these questions.”

These are some of the issues that the new study aims to answer, as well as how to choose the best care models for people with age-related problems. At present, doctors really don't know how best to manage aging HIV-positive patients.

Are the same comprehensive care guidelines used for HIV-negative people appropriate? Currently, there are no easy answers to that question.

“Conditions that you might normally see in patients in their 60s or 70s are showing up in HIV patients who are only in their 40s and 50s,” said Brad Hare, MD, Grosso's doctor and medical director of the UCSF Positive Health Program at San Francisco General Hospital.

Hare explains that he and a colleague, Malcolm John, MD, who heads UCSF's comprehensive HIV care clinic, will use the study funds to identify which screening tests should be conducted to monitor for diseases of aging, along with when they should be used. The study will also explore the value of bringing in nutritionists and pharmacists as essential members of the care team.

John stresses that they will also be looking beyond the physical manifestations of HIV disease. Specialists in psychology and social support will also be involved.

UCSF's Positive Care Center, one of the country's model integrated care programs, will serve as the template upon which to study the best care strategies for people as they age.

“It's our legacy and responsibility at UC to be leaders in research and caring for people with HIV,” Hare concluded.