Aging with AIDS
Adults with HIV/AIDS are living longer lives, but face a new challenge.
In 1983, Steve Bolan spent his 40th birthday getting a physical. Although the movie advertising executive seemed healthy, he was worried about a mysterious illness that was making many of his friends seriously sick.
Steve received a clean bill of health, except for a strange but benign yeast infection normally seen only in infants. When the infection persisted for a year, his doctor finally diagnosed him with AIDS-related complex, or ARC, a term no longer in use to describe people who have minor symptoms caused by infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
“I knew it wasn’t good news, but no one really understood what it meant,” says Steve, who was eventually diagnosed with full-blown Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.
“More and more people around me were getting sick and dying, but all my doctor could say was ‘let’s wait and see.’ That was the horrible part—waiting for him to tell me my time was up.”
It’s been 27 years, and Steve is still waiting. Now 67, he is one of a steadily increasing number of men and women who are experiencing something once considered unthinkable: They are growing old with AIDS.
Originally considered a disease of the young, AIDS and the virus that causes it have been increasingly afflicting an older population. Whereas individuals in their 20s and 30s once made up the vast majority of the population with HIV/AIDS, nearly 30 percent of the 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States today are age 50 and above.
By 2015, more than half of the people living with HIV in the U.S. will be over 50. The statistic includes those who havelived with the virus for many years, those who are just learning about their HIV status after previously being infected, and those newly infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).