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Understanding the Aging Population Living with HIV

By Neetu Hariharan, United States

HIV affects an increasing number of Americans over the age of 50. Thanks to improvements in medical treatment, many HIV-positive people are living well into their 50s and beyond. At the same time, many new infections are occurring within this age group.


There are some important factors that may contribute to this issue. For example, healthcare providers may not offer older adults an HIV test because they incorrectly assume they are not sexually active or because normal symptoms of aging may mimic symptoms of HIV infection. This means that if older adults are HIV positive, they may not know it until late in the course of the disease. These seniors can also be at greater risk for opportunistic infections and for developing AIDS.


HIV testing is important for all sexually active adults. Treating HIV can be more challenging as people age because they may have other medical problems that require medications and treatment. Care can be complicated by multiple providers who treat older adults for a variety of different physical and mental health needs. Many aging adults already face isolation due to age, illness, or loss of family and friends. Having a diagnosis of HIV can increase that sense of isolation, especially if family and friends are unaware of their loved one’s status.


For more information, visit the National Institute on Aging’s HIV, AIDS, and Older People Web site:

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