Older people with HIV face discrimination and ‘fragmented care’

Better training is needed for health and social care staff to improve care for people aged over 50 living with HIV, charity warns.
Older people with HIV

Better training for health and social care staff is needed to improve care for older people with HIV, a charity has warned.

One in three people with HIV is aged over 50, but their voice is often unheard, according to 
the charity the Terrence Higgins Trust. Picture: iStock

The Terrence Higgins Trust said the first generation of people to grow older with HIV are exposed to a basic lack of understanding about the virus, discrimination by staff and fragmented services.

The experience of people with HIV in care homes can be particularly poor, according to a new report based on a study by the charity, with some people refused a place at homes and others treated by staff wearing double gloves.

One resident with HIV was only permitted to sit on a particular chair and the television remote was wiped down with antibacterial wipes after she had used it, the charity said.

Fuelling stigma

The report, Uncharted Territory, says: ‘This is unacceptable. People living with HIV in care homes should not be treated any differently from their peers. Instead, these actions are fuelling myths and stigma around HIV and further isolating older residents living with HIV in residential care.’

The charity said that one in three people with HIV is aged over 50, but their voice is often unheard. 

Those in the study had three times as many long-term health conditions as the general population. The report says that co-ordinated long-term condition management, with support to self-manage, is essential for people aged 50 and over who are living with HIV.

University of Central Lancashire senior lecturer in the school of community health and midwifery James Meek said one problem is that teaching on HIV is not part of the pre-registration nursing curriculum. 

He also echoed the report’s call for more training for GPs and practice nurses, so that they can provide better primary care for those with HIV.

‘HIV is a long-term condition and needs to be managed in a similar way to other long-term conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, where we see someone acutely ill in a specialist service and then managed by GPs and practice nurses,’ Mr Meek said.

Socially isolated

The study, involving 246 people, found that a third of respondents are socially isolated, and 82% experience moderate to high levels of loneliness. Almost six out of 10 (58%) are living on or below the poverty line. 

The lack of support for older people with HIV was debated by nurses at RCN Congress in Liverpool in 2014.

RCN public health forum chair Jason Warriner, who is clinical director at charity the Sussex Beacon, encouraged nurses to focus on integrated care. 

‘The first thing is talk to your patient, take a holistic approach, and if there is a team of HIV specialists involved in their care, have a conversation with them, work together and collaborate.’

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