Aging with HIV

Content From: HIV.govUpdated: June 4, 20245 min read


Thanks to effective HIV treatment, the number of older adults living with HIV is increasing.

Growing Older with HIV

Today, thanks to improvements in the effectiveness of treatment with HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART), people with HIV who are diagnosed early and who get and stay on ART can keep the virus suppressed and live long and healthy lives. For this reason, more than half of people with diagnosed HIV in the United States and 6 territories and freely associated states are aged 50 and older. Many of them have been living with HIV for many years; others were diagnosed with HIV later in life.

That’s a significant change from the early years of the epidemic when people who were diagnosed with HIV or AIDS could expect to live only 1-2 years after their diagnosis since effective treatments were not yet available. This meant that the issues of aging were not a major focus for people with HIV disease.

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the nearly 1.1 million people living with diagnosed HIV in the United States in 2022, approximately 54% (596,044) were aged 50 and up. In addition, people aged 50 and older accounted for approximately 16% of the 38,043 new HIV diagnoses in 2022 among people ages 13 and older in the United States and six territories and associated states. In 2022, compared with 2018, rates of HIV diagnoses among persons ages 45-54 and 65-74 were decreasing, and among persons 55-64 and ≥75 were stable.

Further, in 2022, people over age 50 with HIV made up nearly half of the over half a million clients served by the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP). In addition, in 2022, 93% of clients aged 50 and older receiving RWHAP HIV medical care were virally suppressed, which was higher than the national RWHAP average (89.7%). (Learn more about the RWHAP and older adults.)

Health Issues and Aging with HIV

People aging with HIV share many of the same health concerns as the general population aged 50 and older: multiple chronic diseases or conditions, the use of multiple medications, changes in physical and cognitive abilities, and increased vulnerability to stressors. In addition, while effective HIV treatment has decreased the likelihood of AIDS-defining illnesses among people aging with HIV, many HIV-associated non-AIDS conditions occur frequently in older persons with HIV, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, renal disease, and cancer. These conditions are likely related to a number of interacting factors, including chronic inflammation caused by HIV. Researchers are working to better understand what causes chronic inflammation, even when people are being treated with ART.

HIV and its treatment can also have effects on the brain. Researchers estimate that between 25 and 50% of people with HIV have HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND), a spectrum of cognitive, motor, and/or mood disorders categorized into three levels: asymptomatic, mild, and HIV-associated dementia. Researchers are studying how HIV and its treatment affect the brain, including the effects on older people living with HIV.

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. September 18

Led by the AIDS Institute, National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAD) is observed each year on September 18 to focus on the increasing number of people who, because of major advancements in HIV treatment, are living long, full lives with HIV. Read more.

HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day

HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day is observed annually on June 5 to recognize the resilience of the long-term survivors and the need to continue addressing both the physical and mental challenges to their well-being due to decades of successful disease management. Read more.

Late HIV Diagnosis Among Older Adults with HIV

Older Americans are more likely than younger Americans to be diagnosed with HIV late in the course of their disease, meaning they get a late start receiving the benefits of HIV treatment and possibly incur more damage to their immune system. This can lead to poorer prognoses and shorter survival after an HIV diagnosis. Late diagnoses can occur because health care providers may not always test older people for HIV infection, and older people may mistake HIV symptoms for signs of normal aging and don’t consider HIV as a possible cause they should discuss with their provider.

According to a 2024 report from CDC, 33% of people aged 55 and older in the United States* who received a diagnosis in 2022, already had late-stage HIV infection (AIDS) when they were diagnosed (i.e., they received a diagnosis later in the course of their disease).

Older Adults, COVID-19, and Other Respiratory Viruses

Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of getting very sick from respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This includes people who have weakened immune systems. The risk for people with HIV getting very sick from respiratory viruses is greatest in people with a low CD4 cell count and people not on effective HIV treatment.

The risk of getting very sick from respiratory viruses also increases with age. For example, people who are 85 years old are at substantially higher risk of getting very sick than people who are 65 years old.

Read CDC’s information about how you can protect yourself from COVID-19, flu, and RSV.

The Importance of Support Services for Older Adults with HIV

Living with HIV presents certain challenges, no matter what your age. But older people with HIV may face different issues than their younger counterparts, including greater social isolation and loneliness. Stigma is also a particular concern among older people with HIV. Stigma negatively affects people’s quality of life, self-image, and behaviors, and may prevent them disclosing their HIV status or seeking the health care or social services that many aging adults my require. HIV care.

Therefore, it is important for older people with HIV to get linked to HIV care and have access to mental health and other support services to help them stay healthy and remain engaged in HIV care. You can find support services through your health care provider, your local community center, or an HIV service organization. Or use the HIV Services Locator to find services near you.


CDC. HIV Surveillance Report: Diagnoses, Deaths, and Prevalence of HIV in the United States and 6 Territories and Freely Associated States, 2022 HIV Surveillance Report 2024;24.

CDC. Monitoring Selected National HIV Prevention and Care Objectives by Using HIV Surveillance Data, United States and 6 Territories and Freely Associated States, 2022. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2024;29(2).

HRSA. Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Annual Client-Level Data Report 2022. Published December 2023.

*Stage of HIV infection data are from 48 states and the District of Columbia that reported complete CD4 and viral load test results to CDC as of December 31, 2023.