HIV 101














HIV Later In Life

If you're over 50, no matter where you fit in the picture - long-term, short-term, newly diagnosed or someone who is at risk - you need to be aware of your HIV status so moving into your golden years, your concerns about aging will be similar to anyone else.

Newly Diagnosed Later In Life
If you are newly diagnosed later in life, your regimen and adherence to manage HIV is probably going to be much the same as anyone else. Although, there could be differences in management because of other health issues you might have due to your age and other factors including how advanced your HIV is.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) older people are more likely than younger people to be diagnosed with HIV late in the course of their disease, meaning a late start to treatment and possibly more damage to their immune system. This can lead to shorter HIV-to-AIDS intervals.

An estimated 24% of people aged 25-29 who were diagnosed with HIV infection in 2010 progressed to AIDS in 12 months, compared with an estimated 44% of people aged 50 to 59, 49% of people aged 60-64, and 53% of people aged 65 and older.

One reason this may be happening is that health care providers do not always think or assume to test older people for HIV infection. Another may be that older people mistake HIV symptoms for those of normal aging and don’t consider HIV as a cause and therefore don't get tested.

Many older people, whether or not they are HIV positive, are sexually active and have most of the same risk factors for HIV infection as younger people, that includes a lack of knowledge about HIV and how to prevent transmission, inconsistent condom use, and multiple partners.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention latest surveillance report from 2013 found that:

-People aged 50 and over accounted for 21% (8,575) of an estimated 47,352 HIV diagnoses in the United States. Of those, the largest number (44%, 3,747) were among those aged 50 to 54.

-Among persons aged 50 to 54, the estimated rate (per 100,000) of HIV diagnoses by race/ethnicity was 59.3 among African Americans/Blacks, 23.3 among Hispanics/Latinos, and 8.7 among Whites.

-People aged 50 and older accounted for 27% (7,108) of the estimated 26,688 AIDS diagnoses in the United States.

Other CDC studies find that older people also face unique issues, including:

- Many widowed and divorced people are dating again, and they may be less knowledgeable about HIV than younger people, and less likely to protect themselves.

- Women who no longer worry about getting pregnant may be less likely to use a condom and to practice safer sex. Age-related thinning and dryness of vaginal tissue may raise older women’s risk for HIV infection.

- The availability of erectile dysfunction medications may facilitate sex for older men who otherwise would not have been capable of vaginal or anal intercourse.

- Although they visit their doctors more frequently, older Americans are less likely than younger Americans to discuss their sexual habits or drug use with their doctors, who in turn may be less likely to ask their older patients about these issues.

If you are in or nearing the 50-plus group being responsible to yourself means most of the same things it means for people who are aging and aren't HIV-positive but you have to be even more responsible to yourself, your partner(s) and others you might know that are not HIV- positive but at high risk. Make sure you:

- See your doctor regularly and adhere to your regimen.
- Eat healthy and exercise regularly.
- Reach out to others and find support in the community you can relate to.
- Take care of your mental health as well as you physical health.

Being responsible to your partner(s), friends and others can include:

- Practicing safe sex and making sure others do.
- Recommend that people you know get tested.
- Educate at risk people your own age about HIV.

Treatment Experienced Moving Into Later Life
Now that so many Americans with HIV are hitting 50 and beyond, there are ongoing studies conducted on longevity and HIV and long-term effects of medications. Right now, nobody knows definitively how long someone with HIV can and will live but that indicates that someone with HIV, who stays healthy in all aspects of their life, has regular doctor visits and adheres to their medication will have a near normal if not totally normal life span.

Seeing your doctor regularly is important so he or she can screen you for other diseases that become more prevalent for everybody who ages like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, loss of bone density among other things.

Since you'll be around for a long time, you will need to be wise about your future and wise about your finances.

The most productive thing you can do is to prepare as much ahead of time as possible for your 60s and 70s before you retire. It’s wise to take as much time as possible to explore your options as well as to educate and advocate for yourself before these changes take place.

Each person’s situation is different, due to individual needs and concerns. Talking to friends and family or support groups can be very helpful, but it’s also worthwhile to explore options on your own. Do your homework to find out what kind of retirement income you're going to need and maybe consult a financial planner.

Taking care of your finances is not much different than anyone else planning for retirement or a fixed income but also to remember to factor in your expenses for your HIV regimen as well.

Taking Care Of Your Mental And Emotional Health
Stigma and isolation are concerns for older people. Stigma negatively affects people’s quality of life, self-image, and behaviors and may prevent them from seeking HIV care and disclosing their HIV status. Stigma also can be worse to much worse for older people because many in the 50-plus generation don't have a good understanding of HIV.

Another issue can be isolation not caused by stigma but because older people may already face isolation due to illness or loss of family and friends. Isolation can have the same negative effects as stigma. These things along with other effects of aging can take its toll on your mental health.

People who are mentally and emotionally healthy have:
- A sense of contentment
- A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun
- The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity
- A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships
- The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change
- A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
- The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships
- Self-confidence and high self-esteem

These positive characteristics of mental and emotional health allow you to participate in life to the fullest and also help you cope when faced with life's challenges and stresses.

Copyright 2018, Positive Health Publications, Inc.

This magazine is intended to enhance your relationship with your doctor - not replace it! Medical treatments and products should always be discussed with a licensed physician who has experience treating HIV and AIDS!