HIV and Aging

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National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day was this week.  It is estimated that by next year, more than half of people living with HIV in the United States will be 50 years old or greater. This is due to the success of anti-retroviral treatments, subsequent sustained longevity and an increase in newly diagnosed and/or newly infected older Americans with HIV. The Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC) acknowledges and salutes the tremendous resilience, strength and fortitude of those who have lived with HIV for so many years. We celebrate their survival and wish them a very good life.

Despite remarkable advances, we can’t forget that living with HIV can present challenges, regardless of age. But older Americans with HIV may face different issues than their younger counterparts, including greater social isolation and different reactions and stigma when disclosing their status to partners, family, or friends. We know that individuals aging with HIV are at a heightened risk of co-morbidities associated with aging occurring at an earlier age.

This heightened risk is thought to be a result of chronic inflammation from HIV and possibly side effects of past ART use. In addition to physical co-morbidities such as cardiovascular, kidney or liver diseases, cancers, and osteoporosis, as people age with HIV, the risk for depression, cognitive and functional decline and risks associated with poly-pharmacy emerge as key concerns for nurses caring for older patients with HIV.

A handy clinical guideline for HIV in older adults has been developed by the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute and Johns Hopkins University Division of Infectious Diseases. Click here to download or order it.

The role of nurses in managing the complex holistic needs of older adults with HIV is critical. We know that assessing and addressing the psychosocial, spiritual and physical needs of our patients living with HIV from a patient-centered approach has always been at the core of HIV nursing. As our patients age, this highly skilled, well informed, whole person and patient centered approach is more important than ever.

If your clinical practice, research, teaching or other nursing work centers on the aging HIV population, we’d like to hear from you as we develop a roster of HIV and aging nursing expertise and experience. If this is your area of expertise, please email Carole Treston, ANAC Chief Nursing Officer, with your name and contact information.

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