“Some 34 million people were living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS at the end of 2011, while deaths from AIDS fell to 1.7 million that year from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005.”  Reuters, September 12, 2013 http://hivworkshop.com/2013%20news/Sept13/sept13-3.htm

Less than 30 years ago no one would have thought that a person with HIV would be planning for retirement.  In a relatively short period of time a diagnosis that used to result in premature death has become manageable through medication.  Now the HIV population[1] achieves life expectancies similar to most Canadians.

Financial readiness

Some Canadians with HIV will have been infected later in life and therefore their opportunities to save for retirement may not have been impeded by significant health issues.  Whereas others have lived with an HIV diagnosis for two or three decades and likely for many of them, retirement planning has not been possible.  With their priorities focused on a significant health issue and with the expectation of premature loss of life, many had no reason to save for their retirement.  Their limited access to jobs due to health issues but also due unfortunately to discriminatory practices, would have reduced their ability to save.  Other expenses related to their health may also have made it challenging to save.

Elder care

Many aging Canadians, not just those with an HIV diagnosis, wonder who will assist them in their frail later years.  The increase in childlessness alongside the geographic distribution of family members means that older adults are increasingly on their own later in life.  Aging is often accompanied by challenges that require at least some assistance with routine items.  Some individuals have the means and the preference to pay for assistance such as home maintenance and personal care giving.  Others will not have a choice because they do not have the financial means.

Those with HIV may face challenges when seeking additional assistance.  Living arrangements such as community care and even institutionalization may mean that they encounter individuals including professionals who do not understand their unique health needs or, worse, discriminate.  Educational preparations are required both for agency staff as well as residents.  They will have special medication needs and health risks that require monitoring.  Solutions such as the Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatchewan[2] are providing a resident-directed approach that helps create community relationships and a personal sense of purpose.  Independence is encouraged by having “groups of 9-10 residents live in each of these houses and there are homes for Veterans, Aboriginal residents, Ukrainian residents, and men with acquired brain injuries”2.  With foresight similar approaches will also be applied to those in the HIV community who are aging and their unique vulnerabilities.

[1] According to the United Nations Population Division, in 2010 there were 73,000 people aged 15 and older living with HIV in Canada http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/hiv/populationAndHIVAIDS2010.pdf.