Older people with HIV feel stigmatised

Older people with HIV feel stigmatised

A large proportion of older people living with HIV feel isolated and stigmatised.

Studies conducted at Keele University in Staffordshire, found that most suffers feel it is perceived to be a young person's disease and that older women in particular feel having the condition causes others to think of them as "sexually irresponsible" and "undignified".

Advancements in treatment now mean that any people with HIV can live a long life, but many of the people questioned still said they are worried about their condition as they reach old age.

Dr David Asboe, a consultant in HIV medicine at Chelsea and Westminster hospital, said that during the mid-1990s most patients he saw only lived for a short period of time, but now half of people who he looks after are well over the age of 50.

Study leader Dana Rosenfeld said that despite the rising numbers, sufferers still feel anxious about how they will be perceived by their peers.

"A lot of the people to whom we spoke, particularly but not exclusively the women, spoke of their sense that they would be seen as undignified, that having HIV in later life would be read as sexually irresponsible," she explained.

"And there was a real sense that particularly in later life HIV status would be read in very stigmatised ways."

The study found that older gay men with HIV were most likely to know of support organisations because they are often in contact with others in the same positions.

Black heterosexuals from Africa were found to be unlikely to disclose the details of their condition to others, but it is white heterosexuals that were found to be the most stigmatised, feeling that they are a "minority within a minority".

According to the Alzheimer's Society, around two per cent of people living with HIV also have dementia.

Symptoms of HIV related cognitive impairment include forgetfulness, language difficulties and concentration problems.

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