More than 25% of people living with HIV in the United States are 55 years or older! Thanks to better medications, people who are diagnosed, take their medication, and have a suppressed viral load can live long and healthy lives. That’s great news!

It is important to know that many people experience health problems related to growing older. HIV can also increase your risk for age-related illnesses. Some of these illnesses are:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Liver disease (including hepatitis B and C)
  • Some cancers (lung, anal, and cervical cancer)
  • Diabetes
  • HIV-Associated neurocognitive disorders: may cause a decrease in attention, language, movement, and memory

Also, older adults may experience more loneliness and stigma compared to younger people. The best way to stay healthy is to visit your medical provider regularly and ask questions! Also, ask your case manager about the support services available to you.

 

Heart Disease, Lung Disease, Diabetes 

  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Take your HIV medication and keep your viral load undetectable
  • Ask your doctor if you are at risk for these common conditions

Liver Disease 

  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Don’t share needles to inject drugs
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis B
  • Get tested for hepatitis C
  • Get your liver tested regularly

Cancer

  • Keep your viral load undetectable to keep your immune system strong
  • Get your HPV vaccine
  • Get tested for hepatitis B and C, which can cause cancer
  • Get screened for HPV regularly

Feeling Lonely 

  • Spend more time with a friend you trust
  • Join a club, volunteer group, or support group
  • Tell your provider or case manager – they can find services to help

 

*Adapted from “20 Ways to Live to be 100 When You Have HIV,” Michelle Garcia and Diane Anderson-Minshall, HIV Plus Magazine, January/February 2015.