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Ageing Positive – understanding the issues faced by people ageing with HIV

From: Transforming The Nation's Healthcare   15-SEP-12


To gain a deeper understanding of the issues faced by people ageing with HIV including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) seniors, we recently held a forum in association with Positive Directions (Anglicare) in New Farm, Queensland.

We invited over 45 sector-based representatives including medical practitioners, support workers, care providers and peak bodies to discuss the issues people face when living with HIV – the main issue being premature ageing.

Studies have shown that typical conditions associated with ageing (including cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardio vascular, kidney and liver disease) are more common in a 55 year old living with HIV than a 75 year old living without HIV. This indicates the need for preventative health care to delay the impact of ageing.

Furthermore data suggests that 33 per cent of people living with HIV are currently over 50 years of age. This figure will however grow dramatically by the end of 2020, with 50 per cent of people living with HIV expected to be over 50 years of age. This has enormous implications for the health sector as there are emerging and growing ageing and support issues for people ageing with HIV.

People suffering from HIV also experience significant anxiety about disclosing their information to care givers for fear of discrimination, particularly in residential care (due to HIV status and often sexuality). This can lead to a strong preference to remain living at home and age without support.

With HIV a key issue in the LGBTI community, social isolation of LGBTI seniors with HIV is also extremely high. Many people in this sector are estranged from their family and essentially call their friends, ‘family’. Thus the effect of ageing not only with HIV but also isolation from traditional caregivers (namely family) means that a large percentage of people ageing with HIV might not access the services they are entitled to at home or enter residential care unwillingly/prematurely.

At the forum we concluded that there is a need to build upon the knowledge base of service providers and care workers regarding the issues people face when ageing with HIV and the added complexity it presents if the person is from the LGBTI community.

Attendees acknowledged that there is still a long way to go but hope for a brighter future where people ageing with HIV feel safe and secure in accessing the services they require, have their privacy respected, are encouraged to live well and have their choices supported as to where they want to age.

We are committed to raising awareness of this issue with service providers and policy makers. We will keep implementing strategies designed to ensure people in these communities receive services and support in an equitable and timely manner.