UK: Royal College of Nursing warns older HIV patients are ‘failed by the system’

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The Royal College of Nursing has warned that older patients require greater help to overcome the stigma of HIV.

The College warned that with 1 in 5 people living with HIV are over 50, greater levels of awareness and care are needed.

HIV remains stigmatised among the older generation due to its perceived link with homosexuality, while patients often have financial problems or secondary conditions.

Jason Warriner, Chair of the RCN Public Health Forum, said: “There is a silent generation of people living with HIV who don’t feel comfortable attending support groups or talking about their diagnosis. It is every health care worker’s responsibility to reach out to these people.”

“They have respiratory problems, diabetes and heart disease. That is proving challenging. You have to be careful about drug interactions and other complications.

“Nurses need more training and we need to ensure patients are not getting passed around from health professional to health professional. Their care needs to be better co-ordinated.”

Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive of the RCN said: “Nursing staff are seeing an increasing number of older people with HIV and too often they can see that the system is failing them.

“We owe it to them as a society to provide the support, medically, emotionally and financially, that they need.”

Ian Lamb, 61, was diagnosed with HIV in 1996.

He told the Independent: “The attitudes towards HIV haven’t really changed in some parts of the country from when I was first diagnosed twenty years ago – it is just more subtle and less noticeable now. After twenty years I still have to be careful who I tell or what I say.

“When I was diagnosed having HIV meant you were going to die, and that is how I lived my life, racking up enormous debts which I am still paying off.”