By Liza Berger, Staff Writer
Also, many older adults with the virus are in
lower socio-economic groups. Staying “in shape” is
not as easy for them because they may not have the
means to join a gym, Gebo said. Exercising is
important in helping reduce the risk of diabetes and
cardiovascular disease, both of which are more
common in older people.
Caregiving could present another financial burden as
many older adults may need to rely on paid
caregivers, such as home health aides.
Problems to Solve
Many answers still elude scientists regarding this
population with HIV. Still a mystery is the precise
cause of certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, in
older adults with HIV. Is it the medication? The
aging process? Or the disease itself, which can
cause dementia in younger adults? Neurological
problems can be caused by vitamin deficiencies,
opportunistic infections or ARVs. Also, how much HIV
is worsening co-morbidities, such as heart disease
and diabetes, remains unclear.
Gebo is working on fine-tuning drug regimens for
elderly people living with AIDS to reduce the pill
burden and offer the best combination of therapies.
Another quandary doctors face with this population
is what to treat first. For example, is it more
important to treat the HIV or the tuberculosis?
Those are just some of the new questions that
scientists are grappling with as the population with
the disease continues to age.
There no doubt is still a lot to figure out
regarding this population. Exacerbating the problem
for researchers is that drug companies have not
included older people in clinical trials of new
drugs. Clearly, that has to change. The population
of people with HIV is not getting any younger.