Research by Keele University using focus groups has discovered that many older people with HIV feel that there is stigma surrounding being an HIV-Positive at their age. 

We’re only thirty-one years on from the first confirmed AIDS related deaths in the UK – back in 1982. But so much has changed. As we know HIV is no longer a life sentence – with early diagnosis and effective modern treatments our life expectancy is expected to be “near normal” – some specialists think we may live even longer than our contemporaries.

This is, obviously, great news. But where people who contracted HIV, on the whole, used to die at an early age the landscape has changed – people with HIV are now pretty much mirroring the rest of the population in as much as we’re getting older, and with age comes a new set of concerns.

The HIV in the UK report from Public Health England (PHE) states that whilst in 2002 one in nine patients with HIV was over 50, that figure has now swelled to one in five. Doctors are having to manage patients who’re both living much longer than expected and living with HIV.

Subjects of the study claimed that they felt branded as “undignified and sexually irresponsible”.

Community support as well as support from friends and family was considered key to being able to enjoy a high quality of life whilst aging with HIV – but as many as 63% of the cohort admitted that they felt unable to tell those close to them about being HIV-Positive, especially women and heterosexual black African men.

We at beyondpositive would like to thank those older people living with HIV. You’re the first generation to age with HIV, and you will show us the way as always. 


  1. Feels odd to be classified as an older person at just over 50 (see your tags) I have to say. Leaving that aside, I’d be interested to know whether stigma in my age group (an antique 52) were any greater than, say, for people with a mental health issue or other somatic long-term condition i.e. known diabetics report discrimination with job opportunities. If the stigma is more generally associated with living with an illness, then that helps us develop strategies to address the situation. Also the recent lifestyles survey suggested positive attitudes to LGBT people were very age specific and so again I wonder if the stigma is actually homophobia, given HIV’s association in many people’s minds with gay men. An interesting piece of work anyway and it would be good to get under the surface of the findings.


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