Even though present policy and program attempts to address HIV and aging have been successful, solely raising awareness is not enough, and action needs to be taken by policymakers, health care professionals, researchers, and community advocates, according to a review in Gerontology.1
People with HIV face multiple health challenges as they age and the success of HIV treatments have highlighted the necessity of access to health care and health equity. Social care resources for this population are still inadequate because of persistent social isolation, insufficient social support, and a resources system that is unable to meet their needs.
First, the study authors explained that social integration of older people with HIV can mitigate some of the burdens associated with older people with HIV, and is associated with improved psychological well-being, better physical functioning, and better sufficiency of informal social supports.
“Due to effective anti-retroviral therapy (ART), the people with HIV are aging, and this is observed globally wherever ART is readily available,” explained the study authors.
Additionally, older adults with HIV frequently experience dual stigmatization because of their HIV status and age.
It’s been found that older adults with HIV who have higher social support and more social integration report lower HIV-related stigma, better psychological well-being, better physical functioning, and better sufficiency of informal social support resources. Such community connections can precisely address some of the psychosocial difficulties of aging.
“The public health response to the HIV epidemic must realign itself with the aging of the epidemic and pay more attention to the needs of older adults,” study authors emphasized.
Prevention of new HIV infections is very important, but attention geared towards newly adapted specialized care models for HIV treatment and aging is vital. This will require action from government to create new health care models and programs, social service integration into medical care, and newly modified health care models and programs that consider the diverse intersectional identities of older adults with HIV in addressing their medical, psychological, and social needs, including health stability and financial stability.
Geriatric care is 1 way to address the complex health needs of older people, and integrated geriatric care models could be especially beneficial because of their utilization of care coordination to address complex comorbid health problems faced by the aging HIV population.
Study authors say policymakers should make sure their work is grounded in justice and human rights principals so that equitable access to health and social services is ensured. Health care providers should routinely screen for HIV and other illness related to older adults’ sexual health. Health and social service providers must address care engagement and ART adherence, which is vital for a population experiencing HIV and age-related health burdens.
According to Jessica Robinson-Papp, MD, MS, medication adherence assistance should be individualized and team-based, with impressions that multiple clinics will have resources for patients since this topic is well-studied.2
Research should zoom-out their focus from biomedical and clinical efforts to a greater understanding of quality of life issues raised by community advocates.
“Cooperation between all of these stakeholders is vital not only for achieving the public health goals of the [United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS] and [the US National HIV/AIDS Strategy] but also for ensuring access to quality medical care and supporting successful aging for the often-invisible population of older adults with HIV,” concluded the study authors.
1. Brennan-Ing M, Mattas E. Aging with HIV: working to ensure equity and inclusion. Gerontology. Published online April 18, 2023. Accessed July 7, 2023. doi: 10.1159/000530723
2. Petrullo J. Dr Jessica Robinson-Papp talks about HIV medication adherence and supporting patients. The American Journal of Managed Care. May 5, 2023. Accessed July 7, 2023. https://www.ajmc.com/view/dr-jessica-robinson-papp-talks-about-hiv-medication-adherence-and-supporting-patients