HIV/AIDS and Aging

Today marks World AIDS Day, an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease.

We would be remiss to not acknowledge the growing number of people living long and active lives with HIV. When HIV emerged in the early 1980s, people who contracted the virus could expect to live only a few years with their diagnosis. Thanks to advances in treatment, people who are 50 and older, many of whom who have been living with HIV for decades, are a large and growing population. It is also a day to raise awareness of the aging-related health and social service needs of older adults living with HIV. They are an extremely diverse population with distinct needs that will continue to evolve over time. 

Aging & HIV

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of the people in the United States who were living with HIV are aged 50 or older and account for approximately one in six new diagnoses of HIV. In addition to navigating the dual stigma of age-related discrimination and HIV + status, people aging with HIV can face challenges with medical treatment such as drug interactions between HIV medicines and other prescriptions and a higher risk of co-morbidities like cardiovascular disease, bone fractures/osteoporosis, kidney disease, and cognitive decline.

Testing & Prevention

Older adults also face significant HIV testing and prevention challenges. Older adults are more likely to be diagnosed in later stages of the disease process. The CDC reports that for adults aged 55 or older who received an HIV diagnosis in 2015, 50% had been living with HIV for 4.5 years before they were diagnosed. A delayed diagnosis means treatment with HIV medicines is also delayed, which gives HIV more time to damage the immune system. Late diagnoses can occur because older adults may not think they are at risk of HIV, and they may mistake HIV symptoms for those of normal aging. Healthcare providers may not test older people for HIV infection because of misconceptions that they are no longer sexually active. Further, providers may be less likely to ask older people about sexual activity — including the number of sexual partners and use of protection.


Learn more about how to create a safe space to talk about testing, prevention, and treatment for older adults.


Learn more about World AIDS Day and how to get involved HERE