The survey found that loneliness was higher among HIV-positive adults than for other older Americans. One reason is that many men and women conceal the condition from friends and family for fear of stigma or rejection, both real and imagined, Tietz said.
Lack of social and family support increases the likelihood of needing costly health care, such as home health aides and nursing homes as they get older, Tietz said.
Dr. Amy Justice, an HIV researcher who also attended the meeting, spoke of the need for health care professionals to learn about specific issues facing HIV-positive seniors.
HIV organizations tend to gear messages toward younger people, and senior services organizations often don't know much about the needs of HIV-positive seniors, said Justice, principal investigator of the Veterans Aging Cohort Study. This ongoing study involves some 40,000 veterans with HIV and 80,000 without HIV from 10 Veterans Affairs medical centers nationwide.
"There are a lot of people with HIV who are 60 or 65 and even 80 or 85," Justice said. "Those individuals feel older than their stated age and may have some of the same problems people 10 or 15 years older would normally experience."
Many older Americans with HIV are still sexually active and should be encouraged to practice safe sex, Justice said. While 57 percent of older Americans with HIV said they disclosed their HIV status to sexual partners, about 16 percent didn't, the report found.
About half the survey participants were black, one-third were Hispanic and 14 percent were white. About 67 percent considered themselves heterosexual, 24 percent were gay and 9 percent bisexual.
Why people with HIV are more likely to have other chronic diseases is still unclear, Tietz said. The cause could be the HIV itself or long-term side effects from taking multiple medications, he said. Early HIV drugs were especia
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