More Older Americans Living With HIV

Better treatments are extending the lives of people with HIV, but aging with the AIDS-causing virus takes a toll that will challenge the health care system, a new report says. A survey of about 1,000 HIV-positive men and women ages 50 and older living in New York City found more than half had symptoms of depression, a much higher rate than others their age without HIV. And 91 percent also had other chronic medical conditions, such as arthritis (31 percent), hepatitis (31 percent), neuropathy (30 percent) and high blood pressure (27 percent). About 77 percent had two or more other conditions. About half had progressed to AIDS before they got the HIV diagnosis, the report found.

"The good news is antiretroviral therapies are working and people are living. If all goes well, they will have life expectancies similar to those without HIV," said Daniel Tietz, executive director of the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America. "But a 55-year-old with HIV tends to look like a 70-year-old without HIV in terms of the other conditions they need treatment for," he said Wednesday at a meeting of the Office of National AIDS Policy at the White House in Washington, D.C. The research included interviews with 640 men, 264 women and 10 transgender people. Dozens of experts on HIV and aging attended the meeting, which was intended to identify the needs of older adults with HIV and to explore ways to improve services to them.

Currently, about 27 percent of those with HIV are over 50. By 2015, more than half will be, said the report. Because of their special needs, this poses challenges for public health systems and organizations that serve seniors and people with HIV, Tietz said. HIV can be isolating, Tietz said. Seventy percent of older Americans with HIV live alone, more than twice the rate of others their age, while about 15 percent live with a partner, according to the report. The survey found that loneliness was higher among HIV-positive adults than for other older Americans. One reason is that many men and women conceal the condition from friends and family for fear of stigma or rejection, both real and imagined, Tietz said.
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