Age-Related Illnesses Complicate Care for Older AIDS Patients
With antiretroviral therapy extending the lives of people with AIDS, and some people becoming infected later in life, doctors and AIDS advocacy groups are "bracing" themselves for "what they predict will be an upsurge in HIV-positive seniors," the San Francisco Examiner reports. At the same time, physicians face a "Pandora's box" of new challenges as they diagnose and treat older patients with HIV, confronting a "gamut of age-related illnesses that compound an already complex health regimen." The CDC reports that 14% of HIV-positive patients are over the age of 50, and this number is anticipated to increase as more adults contract HIV later in life. According to the National Institute on Aging, the number of new AIDS cases is growing faster in those over 40 than in those under 40. The advocacy group Stop AIDS has begun a program designed to reach older at-risk people, but has hit "cultural barriers that have made discussing, diagnosing and treating HIV difficult." Many seniors do not consider themselves at risk for HIV and dislike talking about the disease, the Examiner reports. AIDS specialist Dr. Meg Newman explained that seniors are "hardest hit with feelings of shame and denial." In her own practice, she has seen a 15% increase in HIV-positive patients over 50, and said that with the presence of other co-morbidities found in older populations, treating AIDS in this population always leads to "a new wrinkle or another complexity" (Mezin, San Francisco Examiner, 4/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.