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Aging Population

Living with HIV as You Age

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. Here are some important considerations:

  • If you are older, your healthcare providers may not offer you an HIV test because they incorrectly assume you are not sexually active—or because normal symptoms of aging may mimic symptoms of HIV infection.
    This means that if you are older and are HIV-positive, you may not know it until late in the course of your HIV disease. This means you are 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 you age because you 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 your family and friends are unaware of your status.

For more information, see the National Institute on Aging’s HIV, AIDS, and Older People.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do older people with HIV get sicker faster?

Sometimes. As their immune systems age, older adults are often more susceptible to everyday illness. HIV can increase the severity of other illnesses. Older people are also more likely to progress faster to an AIDS diagnosis after they test positive for HIV. If you are engaging in risk behaviors (i.e., unprotected sex, Injection drug use,), or having sex with someone who is, It’s important to get tested regularly for HIV—no matter what your age.

Additional Resources

Last revised: 11/10/2010