Marc Thompson writes about Positively UK new social and support group for people living with HIV who are 50+
An increasingly significant trend in the global HIV epidemic is the growing number of people aged 50 years and older, who are living with HIV.
In the UK new diagnoses among older adults more than doubled between 2002 and 2011, rising from 442 in 2002 to 990 in 2012. One in four adults living with diagnosed HIV were aged 50 years and over compared to only one in eight in 2003
This “aging” of the HIV epidemic is mainly due to three factors: the success of antiretroviral therapy in prolonging the lives of people living with HIV; decreasing HIV incidence among younger adults shifting the disease burden to older ages; and the often-unmeasured, and thus often overlooked, fact that people aged 50 years and older exhibit many of the risk behaviors also found among younger people.
There is a mounting body of evidence that people living with HIV who are over 50 have higher rates of social isolation and poor mental health, the physical and emotional impact of growing older with HIV or being diagnosed in later life.
Whilst some of us enter our 50’s, 60’ 70’s and even our 80’s with the vim, verve and same enthusiasm we had in our 20’s, getting older can throw up challenges which can be both frightening and exciting at the same time.
If we have been long term diagnosed and living with HIV, getting older may present its own challenges. We may not have expected to live to see older age so have not planned for retirement; we may have concerns about the long term effects of treatment; or have become isolated due to ill health, treatment side effects or losing friends and connections with our communities.
If we have been diagnosed recently we may have lots of questions – How do we face the challenge of accepting HIV into our later lives? How do we tell friends and family? What does having HIV mean for my current or future relationships? How does HIV impact on the other issues that getting older present? What services and support are there for me as an older person with HIV?
If you are recently diagnosed or have been living with HIV for a number of years AND are over 50 then Positively UKs new social and support group could be just for you.
The group has been developed by a group of Positively UK peer mentors, who themselves are ‘aged to perfection’ and are 50+ and living with HIV.
We aim to provide a safe and supportive space to discuss a range of issues and topics which affect us as we get older.
Each meeting will have guest speakers, presentations on a themed topic, lively discussion and Q&A.
We also want to work towards reducing social isolation and improving the physical and mental well-being of this growing group of people living with HIV.
Therefore participants will be given opportunities to socialise and to meet new people. At the end of each session facilitators and participants will post a list of social activities that people can sign up for. These will be informal activities that people can attend in small groups or pairs. We hope to encourage connections between participants and enable them to create opportunities to socialise amongst themselves.
The meetings will take place on the last Wednesday of each month and will be held at the Positively UK office 345 City Road London EC1V 1LR.
5.00pm -7.00pm – Open session and socialising
7.00pm – 9.00pm – Guest speakers and presentations
30th July Ageing Well with HIV
Guest speakers: Dr. Mike Youle (Royal Free) and Breda Patterson (Kobler Clinic) Jonathan Blake (HIV and community activist)
27th August – Mind, Body and Soul – An holistic look at all the areas of our lives and what we can do to improve them so we live well in our 50’s and beyond.
24th September – Sex, games and the ‘aged’ (SAGA) – A evening exploring sex, relationships and intimacy as we get older.
29th October – Get Involved, Get Active! – ‘Are you ever too old to be an activist?’ – This session will look at activism, community involvement and making changes.
(More details to follow and guest speakers to be confirmed)
We really hope you can join us.
For more information or to get involved please contact: Marc Thompson, Positively UK, 020 7713 0444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org