In the older adult HIV populations are reports (USA and globally) that older people living with HIV are exhibiting a significantly higher frequency of multimorbidity. Too often the health status of the older adult with HIV is framed by believing that all health outcomes must be the result of the virus. In fact, many believe or perceive that HIV is the primary factor impacting their aging processes. That perspective is understandable given the uncertainties of getting older. But the research and clinical data do not match that belief. Yes, HIV must be controlled by achieving viral suppression. The sooner HIV is suppressed and the longer that suppression is sustained, your health can be better. As you find yourself being in your 50s and 60s and 70s – you notice that you are aging. You cannot change your HIV status, nor can you change how you have lived the past years, and you cannot change your genetic makeup. But there are factors that can be changed. Many of these are life style changes. Specific ways to address this issue can be found in this Resource Center site.
In the graphic one can see a list of factors that can be addressed and changed. Each of these variables create an inflammatory response in your body. There are many life style behaviors that if eliminated or modifiable can impact the number and intensity of those illnesses associated with aging. HIV also contributes to the inflammatory cascade in the body. But it is ALL of these factors, not just one, that impact how we age. Curing HepC is a clear choice that requires your doctor’s guidance. In all cases you should consult your doctor as to how best to try to change some of these factors. Programs or interventions for mental health require professional support. As always substance use issues can be managed with the help of effective community-based programs (like 12 step interventions etc.).
Mental health issues cannot – must not – be ignored. Unmanaged depression is a key factor that contributes to increased rates of multimorbidity as well as higher risk for death. Seek out mental health care that works for you. There are many options as to the best treatment for any mental health condition.
Changing lifestyle behaviors is a challenge. Which diet or exercise program works for you may not be good for others. If you fail to change your diet or exercise habits, move on to another program or intervention. Engage. We know that these are difficult choices. Often the changes can best be achieved if done with another person or group. Seek community-based programs that introduce you to group activities. Check with community-based program including ASOs (AIDS Service Organizations) and LGBTQ Centers. The word lifestyle is used here. This means that the changes you need to make are sustained changes that will change your day to day activities of daily living. Some call it healthy living or health seeking behaviors. HIV does increase risk for certain comorbid conditions, especially cardiovascular health, but this risk can be addressed. Be aware that there are many factors other than HIV that can be changed so your aging is as successful as possible.