Bolder Online: a beacon for older people with HIV seeking connection and support

Aimed at people living with HIV over the age of 50, Bolder Online facilitates regular Zoom meetings that offer a platform for individuals to connect and share their experience of living with HIV and ageing.

As a 62-year-old cis man who has lived with HIV for 35 years, I found the Bolder Online meeting to be a perfect fit. The 90-minute session began with a check in, allowing participants to introduce themselves and share their locations. This was followed by insightful presentation from Professor Jenny Hoy on the topic of ageing with HIV and the persistent low-grade inflammation associated with it.

Professor Hoy adeptly simplified complex information into digestible insights. A key takeaway was the efficacy of statins in reducing chronic inflammation, thereby enhancing the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis. The discussion delved into the nuances of inflammation and ageing, highlighting the distinction between acute and chronic inflammation, with HIV being identified as an immune system irritant.

The concept of ‘inflammaging’ was introduced – a persistent, low-grade inflammation that worsen with age and is linked to various diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. The best defence, as suggested, is a return to the basics: maintaining a healthy weight, choosing nutritious diet, ensuring adequate sleep, and regular exercise.

For people with HIV, the risk of cardiovascular disease like heart attacks and strokes is notably higher, partly due to HIV-related inflammation and immune activation. Statins, with their anti-inflammatory and plaque stabilising properties, have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by 35% since 2023, but only for those with high cardiovascular risk.

The meeting also served as a personal milestone, marking my first HIV positive peer support group encounter for years.

It reminded me of the enduring strength within our community, akin to ‘Rocks of Ages’, a sentiment echoed upon seeing the word ‘Boulder’ emblazoned on a truck.

NAPWHA’s clear instructions on accessing Zoom meetings have been invaluable, helping to normalise my experience. Discussions about transitioning from long-term medication to newer ones resonated deeply, acknowledging the mixed feelings of loss and gratitude for the advancements that have exceeded the expectations of those who came before us.

The collective wisdom shared in the room was profound, reflecting the privilege of living in Australia with access to top medical treatments and well-resourced organisations. The peer support model has evolved significantly since the 1980s, now firmly integrated into mainstream health, particularly within the mental health and drug and alcohol sector.

In conclusion, Bolder Online is more than just a meeting; it is connection, community, and a source of collective strength for those of us navigating the challenges of ageing with resilience and support.

To register for the next Bolder Online and view past presentations, please visit https://napwha.org.au/older-people-with-hiv/ and follow the links provided.

Bolder Online Join other older people with HIV around Australia

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