Research into the experiences of HIV-positive people over the age of 50 suggests they face “substantial” disadvantages compared to the general population.

According to the study ‘50 Plus’, the first national study of ageing and HIV, they have worse health, are poorer and fear for the future.

The majority of older people with HIV are gay and bisexual men.

The study is to be launched tomorrow in Vienna at AIDS 2010, the 18th International AIDS Conference, by charities Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and Age UK for The Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

It studied the experiences of 410 people aged over 50 and receiving HIV treatment.

Findings show that older people living with HIV are twice as likely to experience other long-term health problems alongside HIV, such as high blood pressure, kidney and liver problems and arthritis, with two-thirds having treatment for these conditions.

This group is also financially disadvantaged in comparison to people their age without HIV. They are less likely to be working, less likely to have a financial cushion for their retirement and more reliant on state benefits. Many have serious financial worries for their future.

Older people with HIV are less likely to be homeowners and more likely to live in social or private rented housing. One respondent commented: “Since I was diagnosed in 1985 I regarded this as a death warrant and ceased to make any pension provisions.”

Older people with HIV state good quality health and treatment information as their highest priority, but three-quarters have fears about needing health and social care in the future.

One interviewee said: “I also fear that, in case I need to be cared for, the carer would be as ill-informed and prejudiced about HIV as the rest of the general public.”

Terrence Higgins Trust’s head of policy, Lisa Power, said: “As a result of effective treatment options, and our ageing population, the over 50s are now the fastest growing group of people with HIV in the UK, and there’s a long way to go regarding support for this group. Older people with HIV are living with high levels of uncertainty about their future health and social care and need substantially more support than their peers.”

THT, Age UK and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation are calling for a range of improvements to help older people with HIV.

These include tackling homophobia in health and housing services, improved emotional support and social opportunities to prevent isolation and better information sharing between organisations aimed at older people.

The full ’50 Plus’ report will be available from October 2010 on The Joseph Rowntree Foundation website.