Sorry – I’m a day late. December 1st is World Aids Day – a day where every attempt is made to highlight the situation as it stands and to look at what still needs to be done.
This year I’m going to focus on a small but growing group of just under 20,000 adults aged over 50 who are receiving care for human immunodeficiency virus in the UK. Many of whom are being kept alive thanks to a massive improvement in drug treatments.
Recently, the UN called for the “ageing” of the HIV epidemic to be taken more seriously. It wants more services to be made available to this age group – the group who thought they would never make it this far. They are the ones who feel as if they defied death. It has been an emotional and physical rollercoaster for those who survived the ’80’s when many of their friends didn’t.
I know this because one of my good friends is in this position. We all thought he was going to die the moment he was diagnosed, but in actual fact, he beat the odds and is more alive today than most of us put together. He says that there are many issues that are affecting this small but significant amount of people:-
“They (had to) give/gave up their jobs and were given benefits, including a chunky lump of DLA (disabled Living allowance) – but the DWP, under the new rules (bloody Ian Duncan-Smith) are starting to take that away from them, on the basis that they aren’t dead! – and these people are facing a very unsure future…..the DWP reckon they can hold down regular jobs – but who would employ someone who hasn’t worked for 20 odd years?….and who still has ‘off’ days when the side effects of the drugs mean they can’t leave their homes…..It is all a pickle without a nice way out – unless a sympathetic government minister decides to take it on”.
Many of them can’t get mortgages and don’t have pensions – many don’t know what the future holds or how they will cope financially. Most of them haven’t been able to work full time because they had to give up work after their diagnosis. Those that have been diagnosed in recent years have had a relatively straightforward treatment and can carry on working and raising a family, but for those diagnosed back in the 1980’s the HIV journey has been considerably more traumatic.
According to Lisa Power, policy director at THT more public awareness is needed to dispel too many myths; “one group thinks there is a cure for it, another thinks it’s a death sentence. The reality is that people with HIV have a manage, chronic condition – but they also have a life”.
This group should not have to lose their benefits – they have been through enough trauma and uncertainty and deserve some stability and support.