Funding boost for program to promote HIV education in aged care

As life expectancy for people living with HIV continues to rise, more and more aged care facilities will be tasked with caring for older people with the disease. An educational program that aims to help staff is now being extended.

As life expectancy for people living with HIV continues to rise, more and more aged care facilities will be tasked with caring for older people with the disease. An educational program that aims to help staff is now being extended.

Advancing treatments now mean many HIV-positive people live longer, healthier lives. By 2020, half of all Australians living with HIV will be aged over 50, according to the Australian Society of HIV Medicine.

In Western Australia, 2015 data shows that 47 per cent of people living with HIV are already over 50 and of those some 40 per cent or some 437 people are aged 60 and over. These rates are steadily increasing, with a jump of around 5 per cent between 2013 and 2015.

As a result, aged care facilities will be increasingly tasked with caring for people living with HIV in unprecedented numbers. In light of this, the WA AIDS Council last year sought to develop an educational program for aged care workers on the best practice care for people living with HIV.

“With great treatments available for people living with HIV these days, people are getting older and dealing with issues of ageing  perhaps more so than dealing with issues of HIV,” clinical services manager Lisa Tomney told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“It became really evident for us that we needed to look at some issues of people going into aged care.”

The educational program, piloted last year with Brightwater Care Group, was recently awarded a $20,000 Positive Action Community Grant from ViiV Healthcare, a pharmaceutical company specialising in HIV therapies.

Ms Tomney said that the grant money would be used to further formalise resources and extend the reach of the program.

“If we can develop champions in the aged care sector, then hopefully the rest will follow,” said Ms Tomney.

The program seeks to provide aged care staff with education around HIV, focusing on up-to-date information around treatment, prevention, privacy and universal precautions.

Ms Tomney said they found many aged care staff had not had training updates on HIV care for 15 to 20 years, indicating a need for such programs before a significant proportion of older people living with HIV entered aged care.

Addressing stigma

The program also looks to address stigma around HIV, with interactive sessions examining staff’s attitudes and beliefs.

Ms Tomney said that some people living with HIV can have fears about being stigmatised or discriminated against when entering aged care. “Unfortunately there can still be isolated elements of that. It can still occur if people are not informed,” she said.

Prior to undertaking the training, only 50 per cent of participants indicated that they felt confident to work with a person with HIV in a caring role. However, at the end of the training, this figure increased to 100 per cent, said Ms Tomney.

“Our evaluation clearly showed that all it takes is a bit of education and people can really see things very differently,” she said.

If you are interested in participating in the program, visit the WA AIDS Council’s website.

Want to have your say on this story? Comment below. Send us your news and tip-offs to editorial@australianageingagenda.com.au 

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Tags: Brightwater Care Group, education, hiv, program, resource, training, WA AIDS Council,

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