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Ageing and HIV

how hiv is not passed on

Many older people lead healthy, active and exciting lives and living with HIV should not impact on this, but some health problems are more common in HIV-positive population.

Does HIV make me age faster?

Research shows that HIV causes the immune system to age faster than it should, meaning that younger people with HIV can have 'older' immune systems. This is because the virus causes the immune system to become inflamed and also due to the effects it has on some of the T-cells.

There has been a rise in the number of younger HIV positive people having 'age-related' diseases and health problems because of this - such as cancerscardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of older people living with HIV experiencing age-related diseases. A recent study confirmed that age-related illnesses, particularly heart and kidney disease, were more common in older HIV positive people.


What is happening to my body as I get older?

Over time, our bodies gradually lose strength, although we now know the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and exercising as we age. This means that older people now lead healthier, longer lives than in previous generations.

As we age our immune systems make less of the specific T- cells needed to respond to new infections and to develop immunity after a vaccination. This is why it can generally be harder for older people to recover from illnesses and why they may not develop protection after an immunisation.


Can I slow down the ageing process?

Although no-one can stop the ageing process, we can make changes to our lifestyles which will help keep our bodies stronger and healthier into old age. These include stopping smoking, exercising more and improving our diets, as well as managing our HIV well.

Living with HIV can be an added complication as we age, but improving our general health can prepare our bodies for a happy, healthy older age.

THT has conducted research into what life is like for people 50 and older living with HIV. Find out more about our findings, and the guide book we created from these.


Where can I get support?

The Health Wealth and Happiness Project supports the financial, emotional and physical wellbeing of over 50s living with HIV in Brighton, Bristol, London, Manchester and the West Midlands. So whether you've been diagnosed recently or have been living with HIV for many years, it's likely one of our services may be able to help.

Don't live in these areas but still need support? Our myHIV online advisers and counsellors are here to help. Register now to book an appointment.


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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 12/2/2015 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 11/2/2018

Content Author: Kerri Virani

Current Owner: Health promotion

More information:

HIV and your quality of life: a guide to side effects and other complications, i-base (2010)

Rapid ageing of T-cells after HIV infection could help explain cancers, diseases of ageing, NAM aidsmap (2011)

Older adults, NAM, Aidsmap (2012)

Fit as a Fiddle, Age Concern 

50+: Live Better, Longer, Web MD

Eat well to age well, Age Well (2010)

HIV infection associated with an increased risk of the diseases of ageing, Michael Carter, Aidsmap, September 2014

The importance of exercise as you get older, NHS Choices, July 2013

Can you prevent ageing?, The Science Museum, London

What happens as your age? The Science Museum, London

Immune System: Can your immune system still defend you as you age?, National Institute on Ageing, January 2015.