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ICW Global Speak Up

30th September

Nothing For Us Without Us


ICW demands to age gracefully with HIV and asks for an end to ageism within the HIV response.

Picture courtesy UN.

As ICW honors the United Nations International Day for Older Persons on October 1st this year, and as we reflect on ICW’s vibrant 25 years of sisterhood, we recognize that there was a day not that long ago when a person living with HIV was not likely to survive into their 60s, and surviving well into our 80’s and 90’s seemed an impossibility.

Now we know that with successful adherence to ART and proper treatment, care and support people living with HIV can have the same life expectancy of a person without HIV.

According to the most recent data, globally, an estimated 4.2 million people aged 50+ are living with HIV and  approximately 1 in 14 HIV positive people are over 50. Of these sixty (60) percent of all people 50+ living with HIV are in Sub-Saharan Africa. [1]

Aging with HIV is a growing trend within the global HIV epidemic, largely due to the successes of ART in ensuring that people living with HIV live longer and healthier lives, but also unfortunately due in part to unanticipated rates of new HIV acquisition among those aged 50+ due to higher risk behaviors and lower exposure to prevention efforts.

But is the HIV response prepared to address the lived experiences and daily realities of older women living with HIV?In short…no.

To start with there is much about ageing with HIV for women living with HIV that we simply don’t know.The potential interactions of the process and changes associated with aging, coupled with the impact of HIV and HIV treatment results are complex and not well researched.

Further, the under studied phenomena of aging with HIV has left women living with HIV facing more questions than there are answers available, particularly when it comes to the unique facets of women’s sexual and reproductive health and well-being, including hormonal changes and menopause, as we age.

Simply put we need more research and evidence giving information about the processes and experiences of older women living with HIV.

We do know that for older persons who acquire HIV, the virus progresses more rapidly and that older persons living with HIV may in turn age more rapidly than their non-HIV positive counterparts while experiencing earlier onset of age related health conditions. [2]

Older people living with HIV seem to be at greater risk of infectious diseases such as TB and face higher rates of mortality for a variety of interrelated reasons.

In addition to research gaps, the health care continuum in many places is simply not geared towards providing adequate and responsive care for people over 50.

According to UNAIDS, health communication and health services “are not geared towards people aged 50 and older living with HIV,” and “clinicians are less likely to be trained on the specific needs of people 50 and older living with HIV.”

Outdated understandings and perceptions of the sex lives and risks faced by women over 50 has resulted in severe deficits within the HIV response’s ability to support older women living with HIV and address the unique health and lifestyle needs of older persons living with HIV.

The bottom line is that women aged 50 + need access to the full set of HIV services from prevention to treatment care and support, but as a result of ageism their perspectives, values and needs are frequently overlooked, neglected or ignored entirely. [3]

Older women living with HIV simply cannot afford to be marginalized within the HIV response.

As ICW joins in the celebrations to commemorate International Older Person’s Day 2016. We do so with a deep respect for the achievements of the HIV response so far and a call to action to fight ageism and ensure that we, as women living with HIV, have the opportunity to age gracefully, healthy and well.

To strengthen our collective work to support and engage older women living with HIV; ICW recommends that civil society, governments and key leaders within the HIV response work collaboratively to :





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