June 4, 2018
Due to advances in treatment many HIV-positive people can have near-normal life expectancy and more of them are reaching their senior years. Therefore, researchers need to better understand the issues faced by this population.
A team of researchers in San Francisco enrolled 356 HIV-positive people in a study to assess different aspects of their health and well-being. Participants were in their mid-to-late 50s. Nearly 60% of participants experienced some degree of loneliness. Participants who were lonely were more likely to have the following:
The researchers stated: "A comprehensive care approach, incorporating mental health and psychosocial assessments with more traditional clinical assessments, will be needed to improve health outcomes for the aging HIV-positive population."
Researchers conducted an assessment of the health and well-being of participants at one point in time for the study. In particular, they assessed health-related quality of life, social support and the ability to carry out everyday activities. They used well-validated surveys and were also able to assess the results of blood tests.
In general, participants were in their mid-to-late 50s, 85% were men and 15% were women, and 57% were white. About 70% of participants were lesbian, gay or bisexual.
A total of 58% of participants reported some degree of loneliness, distributed as follows:
Compared to people who were not lonely, participants who were lonely were more likely to have the following factors:
Researchers also assessed participants' ability to engage in activities of everyday life, including bathing, grooming, dressing, feeding themselves and so on. People who were lonely and who had problems carrying out basic everyday activities tended to have the following:
In the present study, loneliness was common, reported by almost 60% of participants. Some studies among HIV-negative people have found that some lonely elderly people have greater chances of the following:
However, due to issues related to their design, these studies in HIV-negative people cannot prove that loneliness caused these outcomes. Rather, it is possible that there are other factors -- smoking; insufficient physical activity; unrecognized, untreated or poorly managed mental health issues -- that are more common in people who are lonely that affected the findings of these studies. Still, being lonely is distressing and affects a person's quality of life and possibly their overall health and survival, and therefore it deserves further attention.
The overall rate of loneliness in the present study was high -- almost 60%. According to the researchers, other studies with HIV-positive people have reported rates of loneliness between 30% and 46%. A difference between the present study and those other studies is that the present study focused solely on people over the age of 50.
Studies among HIV-negative people aged 65 and older have found rates of loneliness around 40%.
The present study captured data at one point in time and provides a foundation for planning future long-term studies. The researchers stated that such studies "should include a broader range of participants, including those from diverse geographic regions (both urban and rural areas), women and those who acquired HIV through non-MSM contact, to understand more about loneliness across a [broad range] of adults living with HIV." Such studies also need to find ways to foster interaction and friendship among older people.
Factors linked to falling in HIV-positive women -- TreatmentUpdate 218
Nerve pain and numbness from A Practical Guide to HIV Drug Side Effects
Unravelling the complexity of HIV and fatigue -- CATIE News
Emerging issues in older HIV-positive people -- TreatmentUpdate 214
Denmark -- unexpected trends in use of psychotropic medicines -- TreatmentUpdate 204
Dutch doctors explore intersection of aging and HIV -- CATIE News
Strengthening the aging brain --TreatmentUpdate 203
Longer life expectancy for HIV-positive people in North America -- TreatmentUpdate 200
HIV and aging -- Healthy living tips for people 50 and over living with HIV
Mental Health from HIV in Canada: A primer for service providers
Quantification of biological aging in young adults -- Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA
Management of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection in Advanced Age -- Journal of the American Medical Association
"America's other drug problem: Giving the elderly too many prescriptions" -- Washington Post
The CIHR Comorbidity Agenda -- Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
Factsheets on HIV and aging in Canada -- Canadian AIDS Society
HIV & Aging: A 2013 Environmental Scan of Programs and Services in Canada -- Community Report -- realize (formerly the Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation -- CWGHR)
[Note from TheBodyPRO: This article was originally published by CATIE on May 23, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]
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