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Uncertainty and fear negatively impact aspirations for people with HIV

Caitlin Mahon

27 October 2017

New study shows people living with HIV still expect far less from their lives compared to those who are HIV-negative, despite near-normal life expectancy.

A woman sitting alone on a swing with a sunset in the background
Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour. Credit: iStock/AntonioGuillem

People living with HIV are significantly more likely to have poorer expectations about their relationships, quality of life and how long they’ll live compared to the general population in the UK – despite advances in HIV treatment that mean, statistically, people living with HIV have near-normal life expectancy.

According to a new survey, commissioned by Gilead, people living with HIV are four times more likely to think their life will be shorter than their friends, peers and older siblings; are twice as likely to believe they will have a lower quality of life; and would be more likely to describe their health as poor compared to the general population. 

Some 68% of people living with HIV stated that fear of disclosing their status has impacted them going on dates or meeting potential partners. In fact, those asked felt that they would be less likely to be married or in a civil partnership (42% versus 51%), and around one-third expected to be single compared to zero for those who were HIV-negative.

Uncertainty about their future and long-term health which could impact their ability to commit were cited as major reasons underpinning these feelings, as well as a fear of stigma.

HIV also impacted decisions around having a family. Around a third (30%) indicated that they worried about their long-term health, and an alarming 75% stated fear of giving the virus to a child as a major factor in considering having children.

The results come from a new study released at the 16th European AIDS Conference (October 25-27) in Milan, Italy. The HIV is: Expectations from Life survey was commissioned by the pharmaceutical company, Gilead, and surveyed 3,245 adults with and without HIV in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK to uncover whether the expectations from life of people living with HIV differed from those without.

“This survey suggests that many people with HIV are still unaware that having an undetectable level of the virus in their blood (viral load) means being virtually untransmittable – if HIV is properly treated and managed there should be almost no fear of passing on the virus to a partner or child and people living with HIV should not limit their dating or family planning aspirations,” said Tom Hayes of Beyond Positive.

“Societal stigma remains a major issue to be addressed, but through sharing the latest scientific understanding within the community, we can work to reduce and remove other barriers, so many of which are due to a lack of understanding or belief in the medical reality of living with HIV today.”

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