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Recognizing those living long HIV+ lives

Did you know almost half of the people living with HIV in the United States are 50-years-old or older?

HIV was once the leading cause of death, but with improvements in HIV treatment, people living positive lives have been able to live long, healthy lives.

On September 18, we celebrate National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day – recognizing people living longer and better as they age with HIV. It’s also a day to address age-related challenges of HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care. 

How does HIV affect my health as I age?

Health challenges occur naturally with aging, and people living with HIV often experience many of the same health issues as other older adults. Common health issues among the 50-plus community include chronic diseases and conditions, changes in physical and cognitive abilities and increased vulnerability to stressors.

However, people living with HIV are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, bone loss and certain cancers as they age. Additionally, HIV-positive aging populations must consider the interaction between their treatment and age-related medicines.

Should older people get tested for HIV?

Yes!

Contrary to popular belief, many risk factors are similar for people of all ages.  Because HIV testing is less common among older people, it is essential to encourage testing to prevent late diagnosis.

Many older adults don’t get tested for the following reasons:

  • Older people are less likely to be tested for HIV by health care providers.
  • Some older people may feel embarrassed or fearful of HIV testing.
  • Some signs may be mistaken for symptoms of other aging conditions.

In addition, older people may not practice safe sex because they are not worried about pregnancy, therefore at greater risk for exposure.

Getting tested is important so individuals diagnosed with HIV can develop a treatment plan with their healthcare provider and lessen damage to their immune system.

Take Control HIV offers free, confidential HIV testing services throughout Pennsylvania.

Aging gracefully is possible

Older adults with HIV can still live a healthy, fulfilling life by getting and staying in care.

Here are some tips to overcome health-related challenges as you age with HIV:

  • Maintain a healthy diet.
    • Eating nutritious food minimizes symptoms associated with HIV, such as weight and muscle loss, diarrhea and high cholesterol levels. It also helps your immune system fight other infections.
  • Exercise regularly.
    • Physical activity helps maintain strength and energy, reduce stress and improve sleep.
  • Remain in care.
    • Having open conversations with your doctor and keeping up to date with treatment plans will improve your health and prevent the spread of HIV.

Aging is a beautiful part of life. Knowing your status and getting and staying linked to care can improve your health as you age.

On this National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, we remind you to live fiercely while enjoying your journey.