This study describes the mental health experiences of older adults living with HIV in Ottawa. Eleven participants aged 52 to 67 completed in-depth personal interviews. Mental health concerns pervaded the lives of these older adults. We identified three central themes common to the participants’ stories: uncertainty, stigma, and resilience. For some of these participants, uncertainty impacting mental health centred on unexpected survival; interpretation of one’s symptoms; and medical uncertainty. Participants’ experiences of stigma included discrimination in health care interactions; misinformation; feeling stigmatized due to aspects of their physical appearance; compounded stigma; and anticipated stigma. Participants reported using several coping strategies, which we frame as individual approaches to resilience. These strategies include reducing the space that HIV takes up in one’s life; making lifestyle changes to accommodate one’s illness; and engaging with social support. These findings inform understandings of services for people aging with HIV who may experience mental health concerns.

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Keywords aging, HIV/AIDS, mental health, qualitative research, resilience
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Journal Canadian Journal on Aging
Furlotte, C. (Charles), & Schwartz, K. (2017). Mental Health Experiences of Older Adults Living with HIV: Uncertainty, Stigma, and Approaches to Resilience. Canadian Journal on Aging, 36(2), 125–140. doi:10.1017/S0714980817000022