HIV and Aging

Over the past couple months I have attended the Opening Doors Conference and The AIDS Awareness Symposium and have seen a few workshop/speakers talking about HIV and aging. I realized that I have not even given much thought to this aspect of my life. In other workshops I have met people who have lived 25 - 30 years with HIV, through all of the hard times dealing with the old medications and treatments. These people talk of getting their diagnosis and being told they may not live very long but are surprised somewhat to still be here. I now know the real meaning is behind the saying, "you live with HIV, you don't die from it".

When I was first diagnosed, my counts were so close to normal they had to do them again to be sure it wasn't a false positive. I was also told I didn't need medications right away, that it may be 10 years down the road. Well, I made it seven and a half years. My doctor also said that I would probably die of something else, unrelated to HIV, with good health and taking care of myself I could live a long time. I see that being the case more and more as I learn about all of this. I have to thank the ACG for being there when I needed them. If I just had my doctor for support and education on my illness, I don't think I would be as aware and as healthy, mentally or physically, mind you my doctor makes me do what I have to do. He is very aware of many things but the support part he doesn't have alot of time for it. The ACG can't do everything either but they have links to other services throughout the city that can help us, places that we can feel comfortable going to because they are respectful of our situation.

So it looks like we are going to get old, like the rest of the population and there will come a time when we will be heading into longterm care or just living on our own. I hope the latter is true for me. It is a tough thing to face for anyone but are the homes and staff in these places ready for us? Do we need places for HIV clients/residents only? Having some exposure working in those facilities, I know there are some workers who are still afraid of the term “HIV”, nevermind actually working with someone who is positive. They are taught to use Universal Precautions and it is the same with every resident but the stigma of HIV still lives in many people. When we reach the time where we need these services, our medical history goes with us and the people who will care for us will know it all.

I am now over fifty so this really got my attention in the last few months and I would like to see more information and I have offered to help get it, be it workshops or educational programs, whatever. I want to know it will be there when I get there. These things don't happen overnight and I don't plan on needing it right away so there is time. We need to get out there and educate the healthcare system that we are coming, not right away but someday.

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