“Thanks to treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART), people with HIV are living longer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2014, an estimated 45% of Americans living with diagnosed HIV were aged 50 and older.
September 18 is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day—a day to call attention to challenges of HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care that older Americans face. For example, although HIV risk factors are similar for all adults, older adults may be less aware of these factors and the importance of testing to detect HIV in its earliest stages. CDC reports that in 2014, 40% of people aged 55 and older were diagnosed with AIDS at the time of HIV diagnosis.”
There are many misconceptions about who is most affected by HIV, most notably that it is a disease that targets young, gay, white men. But research has come to show that it can affect people from all walks of life. For those who are diagnosed, finding a community to connect with and rely on is vitally important.
Michelle Lopez, 51, talks about how her community helps her lead a full, vibrant life. “I was terrified when I first heard the words ‘you are HIV positive,’ but joining what I call the HIV community and finding people who were going through the same thing I was made such an incredible difference.”
Ed Shaw, 76, found that having people to talk to about his diagnosis, including family and his health care team, released the burden of shame and stigma, allowing him to live “in a world without denial, or shame.”
“This allowed me to feel more comfortable,” said Shaw, “when engaging with doctors and the community in general, where I got to know like-minded individuals who were also living with HIV. That’s why I think the ability to open up about my status is so important.”
Click here to read the rest of the interview with Michelle and Ed on the importance of support networks and being Long-Term HIV Survivors.