By Rachel Albone, HIV and AIDS Policy Advisor (HelpAge International, United Kingdom)
HelpAge International has been implementing programmes addressing the needs of older people affected by HIV for 10 years. As the work of HelpAge initially focussed on mitigating the impact of the epidemic on older carers, Rachel Albone, HIV and AIDS Policy Advisor, gives her perspective on the changing importance for supporting older people living with HIV:
While supporting older carers remains central to HelpAge International’s work, we like others, have been witnessing a shift in the epidemic with an increasing number of older people living with HIV. In 2005, UNAIDS estimated 7 per cent of people living with HIV worldwide were aged 50 and over. While a more up to date global estimate is not available due to the focus on 15-49 year olds, where data is being collected, significant increases are being seen. Recent data shows 14 per cent of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are aged 50 and over. By 2015 at least 50 per cent of those with HIV in the US will be in this age group.
Despite these increases, the response to HIV remains largely restricted to the 15-49 year age group. Policies and programmes rarely include older people or their need for access to services and support. HelpAge is working in east and southern Africa to raise awareness of the impact of HIV in and on older people and to support older people to live positively.
Prevention, treatment, care and support programmes must be age sensitive and address older people’s specific needs. Our approach is one of peer education and support. We establish peer support groups for older people living with HIV, providing psycho-social support, advice on adherence, and support to mitigate the impact of epidemic. We also recognize the need for improved access to bespoke counselling services for older people. With an ever increasing number of older people living with HIV, what we need and want to see is a policy and programme response that is fully inclusive of the needs of older people.
For more information on HelpAge International: http://www.helpage.org
Article from IPPF HIV Update newsletter - Issue 27: http://www.ippf.org/en/Resources/Newsletters/HIV+Update+Issue+27.htm