In a report published online in the journal AIDS* – Health Protection Agency (HPA) scientists found that UK diagnosis of HIV have more than doubled in the over 50s in recent years.
‘50 PLUS’ a study presented by the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) found that people living with HIV over 50 can expect to live longer, but will be poorer, fear isolation and care homes and be twice as likely to experience other long-term health conditions such as: high blood pressure, kidney and liver problems or arthritis.
Lisa Power, Head of Policy at THT said: “As a result of effective treatment options, and our ageing population the over 50s are now the fastest growing group of people with HIV in the UK, and there’s a long way to go regarding support for this group.”
The THT study undertaken in conjunction with Age UK and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that two thirds of those who took part where having treatment for another serious health conditions other than HIV.
People over 50 with HIV told the THT, good quality health and treatment information was their highest priority. However, three quarters had fears about needing health and social care in the future.
One interviewee said: “I also fear that, in case I need to be cared for, the carer would be as ill-informed and prejudiced about HIV as the rest of the general public.”
HIV-positive people over 50 are also more likely to be financially disadvantaged in comparison to a person without the virus. They are less likely to be working or own their own home, or have a financial cushion for retirement, and more likely to live in social or private rented housing, says the report.
“Since I was diagnosed in 1985 I regarded this as a death warrant and ceased to make any pension provisions,” another respondent told researchers at the THT.
“Older people with HIV are living with high levels of uncertainty about their future health and social care and need substantially more support than their peers,” added Lisa Power.
Dr Valerie Delpech, head of HIV surveillance at the HPA said: “Although adults aged 50 and over account for just eight percent of all new HIV diagnoses, the fact that cases have more than doubled in recent years serves as a timely reminder that anybody is at risk of HIV infection if they do not use protection and practice safe sex.
“HIV remains a serious infection particularly when diagnosed late.”
The THT report clearly shows the problems a HIV-positive person faces in later life, such as financial pressures, deteriorating health and isolation. All exacerbated by the impact of HIV on thier life.
“Now people are living far longer with HIV than ever before, we need to shift the focus on support services to improving quality of life.
“To achieve this, it is vital that we increase awareness and understanding of the needs of this group across a range of health, social care, housing and advice services,” Said Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK.
The THT study had 410 responses to its online survey and conducted 40 in-depth interviews across the UK with people living with HIV over 50. The full results of the study, including all the data tables, will be published in the autumn. www.tht.org.uk
According to the latest figures from the HPA 8255 older adults accessed HIV care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007.