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Health care challenge: How to care for aging HIV patients?

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The healthcare system is facing yet another challenge ahead: how to care for seniors living with HIV. A new survey of approximately 1,000 HIV-positive New Yorkers over the age of 50 found that more than half displayed symptoms of depression, much higher than those without the virus that causes AIDS.

In addition to depression, this segment of the population suffers much higher rates of concurrent medical conditions that require care. For example, 91 percent also had at least one other chronic condition, such as arthritis (31 percent), hepatitis (31 percent), neuropathy (30 percent) and high blood pressure (27 percent). Some 77 percent had two or more conditions in addition to their HIV status. Approximately half learned of their HIV status after having progressed to full-blown AIDS, the report showed.

“The good news is antiretroviral therapies are working and people are living. But a 55-year-old with HIV tends to look like a 70-year-old without HIV in terms of the other conditions they need treatment for,” said Daniel Tietz, executive director of the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America.

At present, approximately 27 percent of those with HIV are over 50. By 2015, that number will rise to more than half. Because of their special needs, this poses challenges for the public health system and groups that serve seniors. Many more HIV-positive, older adults live alone than others in their age group. This lack of family support will likely necessitate more costly care, such as that provided by home health aides and nursing homes, Tietz said.


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