Mental Health Week - half of people living with HIV reported mental health problems

As It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ve teamed up with Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) to create a one-off podcast which discusses some of mental health difficulties that the older generation of people living with HIV face, and how to manage them. 

Get our podcast discussing mental health issues faced by older people


Today, HIV is classified as a long-term health condition which can be managed effectively with medication and regular check-ups. However, as we’ve seen in our Invisible No Longer and Uncharted Territory reports, despite significant medical advances in HIV treatment, people living with HIV experience significantly higher rates of psychological difficulties than the general population. This can have a major impact on the quality of life and compromise physical health outcomes.

Although the presence of mental health difficulties has been found to the same across all ages, those from the older generation who were diagnosed at a time when the condition was not as treatable as it is today have often come through many traumatic and emotionally challenging times, and can feel forgotten within the ever improving medical field of HIV.

There is an entire generation of people growing older with HIV, which comes with its own set of new challenges in public health, social care and wellbeing. Although the clinical impact of HIV has clearly changed with the introduction of effective treatment, mental health issues continue to be a key issue for people living with HIV. We see a wide range of lived experience from the people attending our peer groups. 

While some people are managing well, others are dealing with long periods of loss, struggling to manage a number of health conditions, or feeling overwhelmed by repeated reassessments for their welfare benefits. We hope that this podcast can help shed light on some of the difficulties and mental health issues faced by the older generation living with HIV.

Mental Health week - 77% of overs 50s living with HIV concerned about mental health issues or depression in future

Dr Caroline Coffey, Lead Clinical Psychologist at the HIV and Sexual Health Psychology Service at CNWL, said: ‘There can be a sense of HIV related trauma and survivorship as many people will have experienced losses of friends and lovers in the early years of HIV.  

‘There can also be the heaviness of carrying a diagnosis as a secret for many years that has created a sense of shame. Alternatively, there may be ongoing experiences of stigma and discrimination or managing the effects of old style medications that have had physical changes to the body.’

  • Find out more about our range of therapy services and peer support groups for those living long term and provide social activities for people aged 50 and over to help build new connections and reduce feelings of loneliness.

Clive Blowes is the HIV and Ageing Lead at Terrence Higgins Trust.