Living with HIV

by | Feb 15, 2012

People living with HIV today are in a different world than those who were diagnosed even 15 years ago. Although infection with the HIV virus is still very serious, thanks to a healthy life style and proper medication, people who are HIV-positive can now lead largely normal lives for a much longer time. The combinations of drugs available today have allowed many people with HIV to fight infections and stay relatively healthy into old age. Being HIV positive isn’t a death sentence anymore. There’s a plethora of information out there on how to live well with HIV.

The same rules for longevity apply to people with HIV:

  • Cultivate healthy eating habits
  • Reduce stress
  • Obey physicians? recommendations
  • Quit smoking, drinking to excess and using drugs not prescribed by your doctor
  • Keep immunizations current. They can help prevent infections
  • Get adequate exercise, relaxation and sleep
  • Ask your physician for further recommendations and additional help

 

There are a lot of people living with HIV today who are 60 and older. Unfortunately, they may feel older than their stated age because they are dealing with some of the same problems people much older would suffer. A survey of around 1,000 HIV-positive men and women ages 50 and above living in New York City determined that more than half had symptoms of depression, a much higher rate than others their age without HIV. In addition, most of them had other chronic medical conditions such as arthritis (31 percent), hepatitis (31 percent), neuropathy (30 percent) and high blood pressure (27 percent). Some 77 percent had two or more other conditions. About half had already progressed to AIDS before they?d even received the HIV diagnosis, the report found. Currently, about 27 percent of people with HIV are over 50. More than half will be by 2015, said the report. Due to the special needs of HIV-positive individuals, challenges are on the horizon for public health systems and organizations that serve seniors and people with HIV.

HIV can be a lonely road. According to one report, 70 percent of older Americans with HIV live alone. That?s more than twice the rate of others their age. Only 15 percent live with a partner. One possible explanation is that many men and women conceal their condition from loved ones for fear of shame or rejection, whether real or imagined. AIDS- and HIV- related stigma and discrimination refer to intolerance, negative feelings, abuse and mistreatment directed at people living with either disease. This can result in being rejected by family, peers and the wider community; inferior treatment in healthcare and education situations; psychological deterioration; and can negatively impact testing and treatment. The lack of any social or family support increases the chances of requiring expensive outside care, such as home health aides or nursing homes, as HIV patients age.

Many older Americans with HIV are still sexually active, though, and should continue to practice safe sex. While 57 percent of older Americans with HIV said they revealed their HIV status to sexual partners, about 16 percent admitted that they didn’t, the report found.

HIV treatment has come a long way in the past 25 years. Today, people with HIV can live long, relatively healthy lives. HIV treatment must now focus on controlling the virus as well as dealing with other health problems that can come with living longer with HIV (such as high blood pressure or diabetes?i.e. normal diseases of aging) and helping people have the best possible overall health. With the right treatment, anyone suffering from HIV can lead a full and long life. Living, and living well, with HIV means understanding all you can about your disease and treatment.

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