Aging With HIV
Last updated: March 2021
With biomedical advances and continued new antiretroviral therapy (ART), people living with HIV can stay healthy into old age. I never thought I would be living 31 years beyond my HIV diagnosis. Now, 53-years-old, I have been living with HIV for more than half of my life.
Age-related health conditions and HIV
The fact is, 7.5 million people living with HIV worldwide were over 50 years old in 2018, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1 Evidence suggests that people living with HIV age somewhat younger than those who are HIV negative.1 This happens as a result of our immune system which has to work harder to stay healthy.
There are a number of age-related health conditions that often occur alongside HIV. Common health conditions that people living with HIV may experience include:1
- Cardiovascular disease
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Osteoporosis (weakened bones)
- Memory problems
My issues with high cholesterol and weight
During my last visit with my provider, I weighed in at 246 pounds. I had gained 25 pounds in just three months. I am heavier than I have ever been. My labs reflected a higher cholesterol level. My provider wrote a prescription to regulate cholesterol levels.
I really need to lose weight to prevent the onset of any of those common conditions. I also want to lose weight so that I can stop taking this new med and not put myself in a position of needing to take additional medications. I don’t want cardiovascular disease.
My plan to manage these age-related health conditions
I asked my provider to order labs and urine tests on a regular basis to test for signs of any problems. If you think you’re experiencing any new symptoms or illnesses including any side effects to your treatment, write them down and make sure to contact your provider. Be proactive about checking in with your overall health. I suggest that for the chance of a healthy older age, take action now to improve your general health. I have started walking to get in 10,000 steps per day.
Actions to improve general health
At times, it may be necessary to not wait for your next appointment. For the best chance of healthy older age, make a decision on what actions you can take now to improve your general health. I decided to reduce my sugar intake and get my steps in each day. If you are a smoker, perhaps you may want to stop smoking.
Managing HIV treatment side effects and age-related health conditions
For people living with HIV who have been taking ART treatment since the early 1990s, researchers are now beginning to see effects it can have on the aging body. We know that some ART, for example, put additional strain on the kidneys which can lead to kidney failure.1
As we age and experience other health conditions, there's a possibility that we will be advised to take more medications. I have begun to do my part to decrease the number of meds I take. I will keep you posted on my weight loss journey.
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