NAT (National AIDS Trust) has developed new guidance for care workers on how to support older people living with HIV.

There is an increasingly ageing demographic of people living with HIV. A decade ago one-in-eight people with the virus were over 50, this is now one-in-four.

As people with HIV age they face an uncertain future. The full impact of HIV on ageing are still unknown, as are the long-term side effects of medication. What is known is that HIV stigma and discrimination is an unfortunate reality for many people living with HIV and this is often experienced within a healthcare setting. This can be further compounded by racism or homophobic attitudes, as the communities most affected by HIV are gay men and black Africans.

So understandably people living with HIV are anxious about what will happen as they age and require more care.

Adrian, care home resident living with HIV: “They broke my confidentiality, telling the other residents that they shouldn’t come and see me in my room because I had HIV. The staff didn’t understand how HIV is passed on and so I always got the last bath of the day as they wrongly thought they had to clean everything afterwards. I was lucky though because my social worker helped me move to a new home where things are much better.”

Adrian’s experience shows that some parts of the care sector don’t currently have the knowledge to care appropriately for people living with HIV.

Although there is no risk of HIV transmission from caring for someone living with HIV, this is not widely understood. To address this NAT has created a new guide in partnership with Skills for Care and SCIE. It covers the key issues to think about including:

  • Information about HIV – how it is transmitted, how to care for someone with the virus, infection control, and medication
  • Confidentiality and rights – not only for people being cared for but also for those people working in care who are HIV positive
  • References to how the guidance will help care workers meet the different inspection criteria in the UK

Martin Green, NAT Trustee and Chief Executive of Care England, said: “As people working in the care industry we all want those we support to be happy and well cared for. Living with HIV doesn’t have to get in the way of that. Most aspects of someone’s care will be exactly the same as anyone else’s. However HIV can make some people’s care more complex. Mental health issues and depression are more common amongst people living with HIV, as well as the likelihood of having another long-term condition. This guide gives people all the information they need to be able to support and care for this small but growing group of people.”

The guide can be downloaded from the NAT website free of charge.