By Bob Frascino, M.D.
April 20, 2010
So, recently Steve (my lawfully wedded spouse and also "Dr. Steve," the physician expert in The Body's Tratamientos forum) iPhoned me and calmly asked, "Honey, do you have any idea what your mother's pink satin pajamas are doing in our freezer?" Mildly shocked, but mostly amused, I responded, "Well, perhaps she ran out of room in our microwave?"
Perhaps I should back up a bit and advise my blogophilic buddies that in early December my octogenarian parents relocated from their home of 52 years in Upstate New York to California. They had been living with us for nearly three months at the time of the frozen jammies incident.
So what does this have to do with HIV/AIDS??? Hang on Ms. Impatience, I'm getting to that part.
By all accounts, my folks, who are well into the sunny side of their 80s, function at a reasonably high level. Sure, Dad's executive functioning is not what it once was when he was, well, an executive. Our touchscreen universal remote remains a constant challenge for him. I'm still wondering how he managed to record over 100 hours of the Weather Channel and countless episodes of the Spanish soap opera "Prisionera de Amor," while simultaneously deleting our scheduled recordings of the PBS NewsHour.
As for Mom, she is the sweetest person on the planet and, just like the proverbial cat, has at least nine lives. Over recent years she's survived a major car accident, cardiac arrhythmias, breast cancer, a bout of severe depression following the death of my brother and, most recently, a total knee replacement. She takes it all in stride, never complaining, and never has an unkind word to say about anyone.
She enjoys many activities, including watching movies. Intriguingly, she has these déjà vu experiences during which she's convinced she's seen every film before, even first run movies. It was amusing when she advised me she had already seen some events during the recent Winter Olympics, even though they were being broadcast live.
Mom and Dad have been married for over 62 years and are psychologically (and in some ways physically) "joined at the hip." You never see one without the other. Their names are Angelo and Jennie. Due to their astonishing togetherness, Steve and I nicknamed them "Angelennie." (Move over Brangelina; make room for Angelennie!) So you get the picture. My folks are experiencing the consequences of the normal advanced-aging process. It's as if they both have a full six pack of soda, but sometimes lack the plastic thingy to hold it all together.
They moved into their new digs at a lovely assisted living retirement community a month ago. Dad's first shower in the new apartment was memorable, as the handheld shower wand got away from him, hitting him in the head as he managed to douse himself, my mom (there goes another set of satin jammies), the entire bathroom and a portion of the bedroom. The scene, according to the staff, rivaled the zaniest shenanigans of Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz.
Dad's comment to me after he dried off was "don't get old," which triggered some thoughts I've been kicking around about HIV and aging. Now that was a clever, albeit somewhat delayed, segue into today's topic, doncha think?
No doubt our society, as a whole, is aging. Baby boomers are joining AARP in record numbers. Remember the image of California with its young hunky blond surfer dudes and itsy-bitsy-teeny-weenie-yellow-polka-dot-bikini-clad babes in the 60s? Well, half of California's population will reach age 65 (or older) within the next decade. As it turns out, due to the miraculous success of potent combination antiretroviral therapy, we, who are "positively charged," are also living longer, joining AARP and buying Costco-sized bottles of Geritol. Whoever thought we'd live long enough to worry about getting old? It's as if we've entered a time warp:
"It's just a jump to the left, And then a step to the right With your hands on your hips, You bring your knees in tight But it's the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane Let's do the Time Warp again!" (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
By the year 2015 it's predicted half of the HIVers in the United States will be over 50. Here in San Francisco 40% of the poz folks in 2008 had already joined the over-50 club, which is up from only 27% just five years prior! Providers, even well-trained HIV specialists, are frequently not all that aware of or sensitive to the concerns and needs of the graying "virally enhanced" population.
It's an issue that is not being addressed, because it is not well recognized. Not only are we unprepared on the treatment side of the equation, but a similar problem is now evident on the prevention side as well. It generally comes as a surprise to most to see recent statistics confirming that 15% of newly diagnosed HIVers are over 50! This group is predominantly heterosexual.
We have essentially no targeted or effective HIV awareness and prevention programs for this significant and growing demographic of the epidemic. In fact society routinely stigmatizes the over-50 crowd as little ol' ladies and granddaddies who don't have, or at least shouldn't be having, nookie, let alone hot, toe-curling, wake-the-neighbors-type fusion sex.
The take-home message is that we need to recognize and accept a "new normal": HIVers are aging. Overcoming HIV ageism won't be easy, as it continues to be unrecognized and under-appreciated. It's time that virally enhanced Mrs. Robinsons and Silver Fox daddies remind the HIV/AIDS treatment establishment that we will comprise the majority of people living with HIV within the next decade.
Tune in to my next entry for some recent related and very alarming news concerning HIV and aging. This evolving story affects all HIVers from slackers to boomers. Here's a teaser: I plan to review the mounting data essentially confirming that HIV itself causes premature aging and all the consequences that go along with it. YIKES!
Angelennie told me not to get old. Unfortunately my HIV infection may have other plans for me. Stay tuned. I'll be back soon. Ciao for now.
Want to get in touch with Dr. Bob? You can reach him through his "Ask the Experts" forum, by sending a message to the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation, or by leaving a comment for him below. (If it's a private message, or if it includes personal info such as your e-mail address or phone number, we won't post the comment, but we will send it along to him.)
Life, Love, Sex, HIV and Other Unscheduled Events
Bob Frascino, M.D., was President and Founder of The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation. He had been an outspoken, popular expert in TheBody.com's "Ask the Experts" forums on safe sex and fatigue/anemia since 2000. Once a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Frascino served as Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Immunology, Rheumatology, and Allergy, at Stanford University Medical Center from 1983 until 2001. He was a member of the American Academy of HIV Medicine and had also been a distinguished member of the executive boards of numerous state and regional associations.
We're inexpressibly saddened to share the news that Dr. Frascino passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. Click here to read more and to share your thoughts.
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