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 the HIV positive population.
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 CD4 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 cancers, cardiovascular 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 2014 study confirmed that age-related illnesses, particularly heart and kidney disease, were more common in older HIV positive people.
Terrence Higgins Trust has carried out research among the first generation of people growing older with HIV – you can read more in the Uncharted Territory report.
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.
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.
The Health Wealth and Happiness Project supports the financial, emotional and physical wellbeing of over 50s living with HIV in Brighton and London. 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.
Read more in this section:
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This article was last reviewed on
by Anna Peters
Date due for the next review: 2/1/2021
Content Author: Kerri Virani
Current Owner: Health promotion
A practical guide to healthy ageing
NHS England/Age UK
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)
Fit as a Fiddle Age Concern
50+: Live Better, LongerWeb MD
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
Ken talks about growing older with HIV.
CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau
HIV Drug Interactions
George House Trust
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Copyright 2018 © Terrence Higgins Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales (reg. no. 288527)
Company reg. no. 1778149 and a registered charity in Scotland (reg. no. SC039986). Registered office: 314-320 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8DP.