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Rise in older people in UK living with HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is becoming increasingly prevalent among older people in the UK.

The number of people over the age of 50 being diagnosed with the virus has jumped significantly in the last few years, according to a new paper published online in the British Geriatrics Society journal Age and Ageing.

An estimated 73,660 people nationwide were living with the condition in 2002, of which, 12%, or 3,640, were over 50 years old.

By 2011, however, this figure had increased to 22%, or 16,550, even rising to as high as 35% in Brighton.

Study author Dr Eva Bunting, and colleagues from the Royal Sussex County Hospital, argue that despite a rise in the number of people over the age of 50 being diagnosed with HIV, there is a reluctance of healthcare professionals to offer HIV tests to older people.

They claim this leads to high rates of “late presentation” and therefore significantly increased mortality.

“There is a reluctance of healthcare professionals to offer HIV tests to older persons”

Martin Fisher

“Even when HIV testing is introduced as a routine test, there is a reluctance of healthcare professionals to offer HIV tests to older persons,” commented Professor Martin Fisher.

“Geriatricians need to enhance their diagnostic consideration of undiagnosed HIV infection and offer HIV testing to persons with clinical indicator diseases, irrespective of age.”

There have been dramatic developments in HIV management since the introduction of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) in 1996, but as the population of older people living with HIV increases, new challenges continue to emerge.

Suggestions that people living with HIV may age quicker than the general population are yet to be proven. What is certain, however, is that an increased older population living with HIV means that there needs to be more careful thought put into how to care for these patients, especially in terms of other conditions they may have.

“It is clear that the HIV cohort is ageing”

Chakravarthi Rajkumar

“It is clear that the HIV cohort is ageing and that non-HIV physicians - including elderly care physicians - will be increasingly involved in the care of these patients,” said Professor Chakravarthi Rajkumar.

“As this relatively new chronic illness develops, HIV physicians could learn from the experience in management of other complex chronic diseases, incorporating an awareness of the need for a more comprehensive approach, taking account of the mental, functional, and social aspects, as well as medical issues,” he said.

“It is increasingly apparent that HIV specialists are less confident and less likely to treat significant co-morbidities such as diabetes and hypertension,” he added.

 

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