HIV patients living longer, requiring different care from LTC providers, report says

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Healthcare providers should offer testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in older adults and adjust care for those who have the disease, a new study reports.

Researchers looked at care for older adults with HIV in an April 2013 report from Journal of the American Medical Association. Improved treatment of the disease has allowed for some patients to live into their 60s and 70s, thereby requiring different courses of treatment.

HIV can increase the risk of multiple disorders, such as heart disease and cancer. These infections cause more than 60% of AIDS-related deaths, researchers said. Providers should primarily make sure residents maintain a healthy diet, not smoke and exercise. But caretakers should also be sure any newly prescribed medication doesn't negatively interact with HIV drugs.

Like those with other terminal or chronic life-threatening conditions, providers should work with residents to create end-of-life plans and documents. The clinical team should also know what the resident wants in terms of treatment options, researchers advised.

Additionally, sexually active residents in long-term care settings should be reminded of the importance of using condoms to avoid contracting HIV. The researchers noted that older adults often view the disease as, “an infection for younger people,” which is no longer true. HIV testing should be available and recommended when symptoms are consistent with the virus, the authors said.