Research on older adults with HIV

Research on older adults with HIV

How an ageing HIV population is growing

Almost 27% of all people living with AIDS in the United States are aged over 50. Heterosexual sex is emerging as the current dominant mode of transmission. One decade after the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) there is a dramatic decrease in mortality rates and increased life expectancy among people living with HIV/AIDS. With new HIV infection rates remaining level, the net result is an HIV positive population that is both graying and growing.

This report is is a comprehensive research study of 1000 people over the age of 50 living with HIV in New York City.  The majority were infected through heterosexual sex The primary findings of  this research indicates that the ageing HIV population does not have access to social support networks that provide support upon which the typical ageing adult relies. Without these functional informal support networks these older adults find themselves relying on costly formal care services. Enormous resources have contributed to changing the death sentence of an HIV/AIDS diagnosis to the reality of a longer life. Therefore, the authors argue, it is disconcerting that those who now live with HIV will face a healthcare system and communities ill prepared to care for them as they age with the disease.

The report makes a number of policy and practice recommendations, including:

  • the need for public education outreach campaigns to reduce and end HIV stigma, including homophobia and ageism, in healthcare
  • tailor and target HIV prevention messages to older adults
  • include older men and women in clinical trials for new and current anti-HIV medications
  • the Older Americans Act (OAA) should be amended explicitly to include services, outreach, training, and research on issues of concern to older HIV-positive adults and to prohibit discrimination in services on the basis of sexual orientation and HIV status
  • HIV-positive adults (peer educators) should be included as both trainers and advisors
  • the evaluation of existing health and social services and their use by older adults with HIV, and the development of gerontology and social work  curricula at colleges and universities that train ageing specialists and service providers in the particular needs of the over-50 HIV-positive population
  • a call for increased funding for basic research on the interaction between HIV and the common diseases of older adults, especially pertaining to drug interactions
  • ensure that older people are included as an identifiable group at every stage of the HIV research process
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