HIV patients in America living longer
Pharmacist Dr. Helen Everett has been helping people who were diagnosed with HIV since the 1980s. She is now seeing a growing number of older patients, like 53-year-old Christopher Hooper, living with HIV, often because improved treatments are helping people with the disease live longer.
“Right now, there are much better medications. We have a lot of medications that are single tablet regimens. In previous years, people were taking a lot of medications, and the medications are better, less side effects so people don’t have as many problems and can tolerate it,” Dr. Everett said.
In fact, 50% of people living with HIV nationwide are age 50 and older, according to CDC. While thousands of older people get HIV every year, Hooper is among the many who were diagnosed with HIV in their younger years. Due to Hooper’s early and consistent prescribed treatment, the viral load is undetectable in his blood, making the virus untransmissible to a sexual partner.
Hooper said he was diagnosed with HIV in 1992, and he has seen the treatment of the disease evolve over the years.
“It’s completely different. I remember being diagnosed and given a two-year death sentence. As the trials went on with the medications, and some of them got on early like myself, and survived. The medications got better and better; we kept using those medications, stayed on them and kept our viral load low. The stigma was pretty bad back then. That’s changed a little; it’s still there,” Hooper said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched Ending the HIV Epidemic, a bold plan to reduce new HIV infections in America by 90% by 2030 and have people tested and treated if they have HIV.
Dr. Everett is Hooper’s pharmacist, and they have built a strong relationship.
“You have to have relationship with your patients. You want them to be honest. I always want my patients to tell me if they are taking the medication, but I also want them to tell me if they are not because if they are not, there is a reason,” Dr. Everett said.
“I want people to know that HIV is something you can survive from, and if you are doing anything and you feel like you need to get tested, go get tested. Because it’s important to get on medication early and keep your health going for a long time,” Hooper said.
Where can people get more information?
- CDC: cdc.gov
- Arizona Department of Health Services: azdhs.gov
- City of Phoenix: phoenix.gov/hivphx
- CVS Health: cvshealth.com