HIV & Aging

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In the early days of the AIDS movement, people living with HIV were integral to ensuring that we were seen and that those within government, the medical community, and the pharmaceutical industry recognized our need for and right to effective treatment. Their efforts have paid off. HIV is no longer seen as the potential death sentence it was back in the 80s or early 90s. In fact, a recent study found that the average life expectancy of someone living with HIV in Canada, who has initiated antiretroviral therapy, is approximately 65.

With an increasing number of the Canadian HIV-positive population now over the age of 50, it is important to understand how HIV impacts an individual’s health as they age as one is less likely to die of AIDS-related illnesses than other ailments that affect the remainder of the population. Those living with HIV, even those on medication, are often at a higher risk for developing age-related illnesses such as heart disease, sudden cardiac arrest,  renal disease, and certain types of cancers. Also, some of these illnesses progress more rapidly in people living with HIV than in the general population.

If you are aging with HIV you should ensure that you are regularly monitored for conditions associated with aging, specifically those that are more prevalent amongst or progress more rapidly in people living with HIV. If you are diagnosed with and treated for any of these conditions it is important to ensure that your health care providers are aware of what HIV medications you are taking, as adverse medication reactions are more common amongst those on HIV medication, particularly when over the age of 50.

The amount of research undertaken and resources invested in understanding and addressing the area of HIV and aging has increased in recent years. As the medical community gains a better understanding of how to provide better care for those aging with HIV, you can take some basic steps to improve your own health and lessen the impact of age-related illness by making the following adjustments:

  • Eating healthy
  • Quitting smoking
  • Consuming alcohol in moderation
  • Exercising Regularly

For more detailed information regarding aging with HIV, CATIE has developed a great resource: http://librarypdf.catie.ca/PDF/ATI-40000s/40221.pdf