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Healthcare warning as HIV patients live longer

GLOBAL health services are unprepared to meet the needs of a rising number of people living longer with HIV, experts warned last night.

About 36.9million people are now living with HIV worldwide, according to UNAids, a branch of the UN that aims to end Aids as a public health threat.

The number includes 7.5million people aged 50 or over — more than double the 3.3million from ten years ago.

Study leader Prof Jeffrey V Lazarus, of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain, said: ‘Life expectancy for people living with HIV has increased rapidly since the late 1990s. However, this means health systems are responsible for the care of increasingly large numbers of ageing people with HIV.’

In Britain, new diagnoses of HIV have fallen to their lowest level in almost two decades, with around 4,484 cases last year. But there are still 103,800 people living with the condition, with more than 38,000 aged over 50, according to Public Health England. In a series of papers for The Lancet ahead of World Aids Day next Sunday, an international panel of academics say healthcare systems are not equipped to manage the complex care needs of HIV-positive people as overall numbers continue to rise.

Older people are more vulnerable as they face additional health challenges associated with ageing, they add.

‘In 2019 it is not enough that people living with HIV are alive. They should also be living well,’ the experts say.

Ian Green, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, called for training in the health system to ensure older HIV patients receive proper care.

‘Thanks to rapid progress in HIV treatment we are now seeing the first generation of people to grow old living with HIV, which is great news — but it means we’re entering uncharted territory,’ he said. ‘That means the next challenge is how to ensure this cohort live well and have good quality of life.’