Care call over older HIV patients

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More needs to be done to help people living into older age with HIV, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).


Around a fifth of all people in the UK who are HIV positive are now aged 50 and over, but there is often a lack of training for health care workers and a lack of knowledge among the public, said the RCN on the eve of its annual congress in Liverpool.


Nursing staff will be debating the issue of HIV awareness at the event tomorrow.


The RCN on its website quotes Memory Sachikonye, 48, who was diagnosed in 2002.


She said: “Older people with HIV will have more than one illness and when you are seeing five different consultants it can be difficult keeping track of medications, appointments and tests, especially if you are ill.


“If there is one thing that would really help older people with HIV it is having someone who can coordinate care between different parts of the health service to make sure there are no mistakes and to reduce the stress for patients.”


Ian Lamb, 61, lives in Blackpool with his partner. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1996, at the age of 42.


He said: “The attitudes towards HIV haven’t really changed in some parts of the country from when I was first diagnosed 20 years ago – it is just more subtle and less noticeable now. After 20 years I still have to be careful who I tell or what I say.”


Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary 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.


“Many nurses also feel that they could be better used to help older people with HIV by coordinating care and reducing the stress of dealing with multiple conditions.


“The attention and focus may have moved on from HIV since the late 80s but the condition is still very real for those who have been diagnosed and we owe it to them as a society to provide the support, medically, emotionally and financially, that they need.”


Dr Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive at HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “As the 100,000 people living with HIV in this country grow older, many of them will face a number of related health issues.


“They will be looking to healthcare staff to treat their condition sensibly and sensitively. Nurses have a central role to play in this, to ensure that people with HIV are not just living longer but living well, and receive the care they deserve.”


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