The availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has increased both the number and life expectancy of people living with HIV (“PLHIV”). However, with the need to take medication on a long-term basis, the phenomenon of early aging is appearing among PLHIV, which is similar to those with chronic diseases. The Hong Kong AIDS Foundation (“HKAF”) recently defined PLHIV who are aged 50 or above as “mature-aged PLHIV”. In the past 5 years (2011 to 2nd quarter 2015), 37.5% of the total newly infected population are aged 40 or above and they will fall into the mature-aged PLHIV group in 10 years. Hence the service demand of this group is inevitably increasing.

HKAF also saw the rising demand for residential care homes as a source of concern for mature-aged PLHIV, since it happened not too long ago that some private residential care homes refused to accept PLHIV. To better understand the situation, HKAF conducted a telephone survey with 206 private residential care homes in October 2015, asking whether they would accept PLHIV. With 166 private residential care homes successfully reached, 80% failed to make reply or simply declined to take in PLHIV while only 20% agreed to accept PLHIV. HKAF found the survey results disappointing.

From the survey, HKAF also found that some private residential care homes refused to take in PLHIV because they still have certain levels of misconception about HIV/AIDS, such as wrongly classifying HIV/AIDS as highly contagious and believing that special facilities and equipment like isolation wards and protective gear were required for taking care of PLHIV inmates. Other reasons revealed include the operators’ concerns about the fears of frontline workers when facing PLHIV and hence believing that taking PLHIV may lead to high staff turnover; lack of experience in taking care of PLHIV by frontline workers; the exodus of residents owing to worried family members; and discrimination against PLHIV by existing residents.

Ms. Eris Lau, Chief Executive of HKAF, said, “Misconceptions about HIV/AIDS might have inhibited the acceptance of PLHIV. HKAF therefore is currently taking the initiative to visit and provide education talks to the operators, frontline caregivers and residents of residential care homes, with the objective of enhancing their knowledge of HIV, reducing their anxiety and removing the stigma placed on PLHIV. However, we can only provide limited effort in this area of work due to the restricted manpower and resources that we have now.”

Ms. Lau added, “We hope that the government, general public and related service providers will understand more about mature-aged PLHIV and their needs. The Hong Kong Advisory Council on AIDS is now devising new Recommended HIV/AIDS Strategies for Hong Kong (2017-2021). HKAF has also promulgated the needs of mature-aged PLHIV during stakeholder consultation meetings. We urge the government to seriously consider the service needs of PLHIV and direct more resources and effort for the provision of tailor-made services to these individuals. Moreover, they should support and help step up the education and promotion of HIV/AIDS for the general public.”

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