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Aging With HIV/AIDS

Aging: The New Challenge

At the start of the epidemic, people who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS could expect to live only 1-2 years after that diagnosis. This meant that the issues of aging were not a major focus for people with HIV disease.

But new medications and treatments have changed that. Life expectancy for people with HIV disease has increased dramatically—which means that they now have to face the challenges of aging with HIV/AIDS.

Normal aging is associated with risks for many different conditions, from osteoporosis to heart disease, but having HIV can increase those risks. Some illnesses or conditions which can be worsened by aging and HIV (or treatments for it) include:

  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Insulin resistance
  • High cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Infections
  • Medication interactions

For more resources on HIV and aging, see The Body’s Aging and HIV/AIDS Exit Disclaimer.

Living Well and Enjoying Your Life

Living with HIV presents certain challenges, no matter what your age. But older Americans with HIV may face different issues than their younger counterparts, including greater social isolation and the lack of a strong, local support system. Older individuals may also face different stigmas when disclosing their status to partners, family, or friends.

If you are aging with HIV/AIDS, having a support system will help you stay physically and mentally healthier. You can find support systems through your healthcare provider, your local community center or AIDS service organization, or friends and family.

Fact Sheets & Print Materials

Related Topics on AIDS.gov

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can someone live with HIV?

The honest answer is—we don’t know. In theory, people living with HIV can have a fairly normal lifespan, as long as they take their HIV medications as prescribed, keep side effects of those meds to a minimum, and avoid developing drug resistance.

However these estimates change dramatically if the person has other illnesses too (hepatitis, heart disease, opportunistic infections, etc.). It’s also possible that the virus itself can cause some early effects of aging. This research is still in its infancy—scientists will have to study people with HIV disease as they move into their 60s and 70s to discover long-term effects. For more information, see the University of California, San Francisco’s HIVInSite: Is HIV always fatal?

Additional Resources

Last revised: 11/02/2010