UK: Ageing And HIV

Antiretroviral drugs, introduced from 1996, have taken us a long way from the dark days of the 1980s and early 1990s, when people were dying of HIV/AIDS in the UK on a daily basis. There is no difference now between the lifespan of HIV positive and HIV negative men who have sex with men (MSM) in the UK. More than a third of people accessing HIV care in the UK are now aged 50 years or above. HIV positive people are living longer lives. Ageing and HIV is set against a background of falling HIV diagnoses in the UK, with new diagnoses decreasing from 6286 in 2015 to 5184 in 2016. This was a fall of 18 %, with the decline in diagnoses among MSM even more marked at 21 % (Public Health England, Towards elimination of HIV transmission, AIDS and HIV-related deaths in the UK, November 2017).

There is, however, another side to this story. As a 32-year-old HIV positive gay man, I am fortunate that I am in great health, have a wide circle of friends and that both my parents are still alive. I was co-infected with Hep C, but I cleared my Hep C last year. Many older HIV positive people do not have the same support network and, whilst my HIV diagnosis took place in 2010, the treatments developed for HIV in previous decades had more side effects over the long term.

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