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Aging With HIV/AIDS: Prioritizing Health and Well-being

More and more are living healthier, longer lives thanks to early diagnosis and comprehensive care

Aging With HIV/AIDS: Prioritizing Health and Well-being

In the ever-evolving landscape of HIV/AIDS, the needs of individuals age 50 and older living with the virus demand attention and care. LVHN Comprehensive Health Services reports that two out of three of their HIV patients fall into this age group, highlighting the importance of addressing early testing, life-saving antiretroviral therapy, and comprehensive primary care to ensure a healthy and fulfilling life while aging with HIV. Joseph Yozviak, DO, an HIV and internal medicine expert at LVHN, shares key insights that underscore the significance of these aspects in the lives of older people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).

HIV testing among individuals age 50 and older

Dr. Yozviak emphasizes that nationally, nearly one in six newly diagnosed HIV cases involves individuals age 50 and older. Despite this startling statistic, there is a misconception that this age group is not at risk for HIV infection. This highlights the critical importance of routine HIV testing for those over 50.

"Early detection is the first step in effectively managing HIV," Dr. Yozviak says. "With early detection, your health care team can initiate antiretroviral therapy quickly, reducing the virus's impact on the immune system and your overall health."

Regular testing ensures that older adults living with HIV can access the necessary care and support to lead healthy lives.

“A balanced diet and regular physical activity can help mitigate the risks for chronic illnesses commonly associated with aging and HIV, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.” - Joseph Yozviak, DO

Lifesaving role of antiretroviral therapy

Thanks to remarkable advancements in antiretroviral therapy, PLWHA are now living longer and healthier lives than ever before. Dr. Yozviak stresses that taking these medications consistently remains as crucial today as it was during the earlier, more visible days of the HIV epidemic.

“Antiretroviral therapy not only suppresses the virus, but it also helps maintain a strong immune system. It is the cornerstone of managing HIV, allowing individuals to live with the virus as a chronic condition rather than a life-threatening disease,” Dr. Yozviak says.

Holistic health and chronic disease management

Living longer with HIV requires a multifaceted approach to health and wellness. Dr. Yozviak underscores the importance of adopting healthy eating and exercise habits as essential components of overall well-being.

“A balanced diet and regular physical activity can help mitigate the risks for chronic illnesses commonly associated with aging and HIV, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease,” Dr. Yozviak says.

Moreover, older PLWHA must prioritize managing chronic conditions. This includes staying current with cancer screenings, receiving recommended adult vaccines and exploring preventive treatments like statins. Statins, which are common cholesterol-reducing drugs, have demonstrated their effectiveness in lowering the risk for heart attacks and strokes in HIV-positive individuals over age 40.

There is hope

As the face of HIV/AIDS continues to evolve, the needs of older individuals living with the virus must not be overlooked. “We can empower older PLWHA to lead long, healthy and fulfilling lives while challenging the misconceptions and stigma that may still persist. Together, we can ensure that aging with HIV is a journey marked by resilience, hope and optimal well-being,” Dr. Yozviak says.

Lehigh Valley Hospital-17th Street

LVHN Comprehensive Health Services

Providing a wide range of health care services, including primary care, HIV/AIDS care and LGBTQ+ care, and is dedicated to delivering comprehensive health care solutions to patients, addressing a broad spectrum of medical needs and conditions.

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