Why focus on ageing and HIV?

Life expectancy for people living with HIV has improved in recent years.

As a result, more and more people with HIV are living into older age.

The proportion of people living with HIV aged 50 and over grew from around 8% globally in 2000 to around 21% in 2020.[1]

This estimate is even higher in wealthy and high-income countries like Australia. In 2020 it was estimated almost 45% of people living with HIV in Australia were aged over 55. Most of these people were long-term survivors.[2]

The increasing number of older people living with HIV is a result of the improved care, treatment and support options now available to them.

People living with HIV are now better able to manage their health and wellbeing and live into older age.

What a success story!

But the increasing number of older people living with HIV also creates new health and wellbeing needs and challenges.

Many people living with HIV show signs of ageing sooner than people without HIV.

Several factors can contribute to this experience of earlier ageing.

These include health challenges associated with HIV itself and the impacts of HIV treatment (which can grow with age). People living with HIV are also likely to have multiple health issues (comorbidities), and other psychosocial factors that impact health and wellbeing.

We will talk more about comorbidities and psychosocial factors later in this module.

Many older people living with HIV live in rural and regional areas. This can have many quality-of-life advantages – fresh air and affordability. But it can also mean they become isolated or find it hard to access services.

Older people living with HIV also face the double stigma associated with being older and having HIV.

Older people living with HIV are a group in society that has not existed until now. Sadly, our aged care and health systems are not always well prepared to meet their unique health and social needs.

This is why the role of Peer Navigators is so critical to the health and wellbeing of older people living with HIV and why we need to focus in this area.

Your role is an important feature of the support landscape for a whole new group of people.

“People living with HIV (PLHIV) who survived the early AIDS-crisis in Australia are now middle-aged or older and most are gay men. This first generation of PLHIV have lived through constant change and uncertainty, including the hollowing out of their generation as many of their peers died before the advent of effective treatment. They are the first generation of positive people to age, and are often dealing with complex physical and psychosocial health issues. The ageing of PLHIV poses serious implications for the planning, design and implementation of services that must address their complex needs.”[3]


Watch this video (41:00-46:30; Brent Allan ASHM) to look at the experience of ageing with HIV in an Australian context: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyfHmNEivcA

[1] iCOPe HIV (2023). The International Coalition of Older People Living with HIV (iCOPe HIV) interactive dialogue.

[2] Living Positive Victoria and RDNS (2015). Positive Caring-a handbook for carers of older people

living with HIV, and a guide for people living with HIV.

[3] Gardiner, Bernard (2020). Ageing with HIV: a qualitative longitudinal study of the lived experience of older homosexual men in regional Queensland. PhD Thesis, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland. https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:99e85cd

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