Long-term with HIV

Sitting in a chair at the local clinic, I received a diagnosis of HIV in 2007. Having accepted and come terms with the fact I am HIV-positive, a new reality of living with this chronic condition after 15 years, is now at the forefront; and posing a new challenge for both doctors and patients, aging with HIV.

This virus is becoming a double edge sword of sorts; in regards to long-term treatment, medication side effects, and a continual immune system response to HIV, which leads to chronic body inflammation. As a result of the combination of these things, those of us living with HIV face the potential of new health issues and complications, to both our physical and mental well-being; due to non- AIDS related illnesses. These chronic conditions are seen in older adults and seniors, and are now being diagnosed in HIV patients under the age of 50.

Premature aging and HIV

Why? New research shows that HIV causes age acceleration of the body; and most critically, of the organs. Whether one is newly diagnosed with HIV or has had this virus over a long period of time, aging has given rise to additional fears, anxieties, and uncertainties, aside from HIV itself; a "second acceptance" of this chronic condition, and a second opportunity to realize and witness to others, how courageous, strong, persevering, and amazing individuals we are; living our lives to the fullest.

The challenges of comorbidity or multimorbidity; in combination with common and general issues experienced by those of us who are HIV-positive, (fatigue, sleep troubles, weight gain, etc.) can prove to be a long and rocky path to be walked. This being said, the progress and success achieved over the last 26 years in the advancement of treatment, has been absolutely amazing; and it is a blessing in disguise to have HIV if one is infected, at this time in history.

Arteriosclerosis and then osteoporosis

Every person's body makeup and chemistry varies among individuals; as genes, hereditary factors, medications taken, and the body's response to HIV itself, are each a factor; and play their role in the overall health, quality of life, and life expectancy of those in our community. Upon my diagnosis of arteriosclerosis and then osteoporosis, it was a time for me to regroup mentally and emotionally, while continuing forward in my physical care; the best I could and still do. My aging with HIV hasn't gone as I obviously expected, but HIV is a cunning, tricky, persistent, and unpredictable virus to have.

I do sometimes think about my physical health as a whole in light of my turning just 44 years old, in the coming month; in regards to my quality of life and life expectancy. How will things be in five or ten years, taking into account the changes and adjustments I have already made due to my multimorbidity?

In the end, my life continues to be a blessing. I will always have the present moment as long as I am still here. That is enough for me.

Written by James Cotromanes

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