Many people think of HIV as a condition that primarily afflicts the young. 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!
In the best of circumstances, aging often presents medical and psychological challenges, but aging with HIV often presents a number of mental health complications, such as stigma, isolation, and survivor’s guilt, among others. Within the over 50-population is a subgroup of long-term survivors—people who were diagnosed before the availability of the current standard treatment, highly active antiretroviral therapy. At the time of diagnosis, most of these individuals lived under a cloud of certain death—but many of them are still here today. This group may face uniquely challenging circumstances due to their unexpected longevity, both those that result from long-term exposure to HIV and treatments as well as psychosocial issues.