For many people in Atlanta, the thought of an aging population with HIV or AIDS seemed impossible. When the disease was first discovered in 1982, there was very little that anyone with the disease could do; nearly everyone who was infected fell ill and died. There were some, however, who were able to last until medications came available that restored the health and well-being of all those with this long-term illness. After they got better, many of them returned to work and continued on with their lives. Now, however, there are an increasing number of middle-aged people with HIV who are living with disabling medical ailments.

Doctors are not entirely sure if these illnesses are a result of prolonged exposure to HIV, or if it is the long-term use of HIV or AIDS medications. Regardless of what has caused it, however, there are a number of people whose bodies and physical conditions no longer allow them to work, meaning they are reliant upon disability benefits to help cover their medical and living costs.

Many of these 50-something year olds have bodies and medical conditions that are much more common in people 20 or 30 years older. They have diabetes, high cholesterol, kidney failure, cancer and several other conditions that could prevent someone from keeping his or her job. And, with the high cost of medication, medication that is necessary to keep them alive, it is even more important for them to file for disability benefits if they have no other source of income.

Although it once seemed impossible to many in Atlanta to see people with HIV live into their 50s, 60s or 70s, there are a new host of problems that older people with HIV have to tackle.

Source: The New York Times, “People Think It’s Over: Spared Death, Aging People With H.I.V. Struggle to Live,” John Leland, June 1, 2013