'We never expected this to happen': narratives of ageing with HIV among gay men living in London, UK.

Published: November 14, 2011


The proportion of HIV-positive people over the age of 50 is rapidly increasing in the UK. This reflects the use of antiretroviral therapies and the transformation of HIV from life-threatening disease to chronic treatable illness. In this study a biographical narrative approach was used to explore the lived experience of ageing in 10 HIV-positive gay men aged between 50 and 78. While some participants regarded ageing as an opportunity to continue progressing towards valued life goals, others were more ambivalent about their future prospects. The findings suggest that these differences were particularly influenced by an individual’s biographic relationship to the history of the HIV epidemic rather than chronological age. Those with long histories of involvement with HIV were more likely to be disadvantaged by careers interrupted by illness, to be dependent on state benefits and to have social networks damaged by multiple AIDS-related bereavements. The research identifies a cohort of older gay men likely to require additional support in adapting to the challenge of growing older with HIV. The article also explores the construction of moral identities in relation to discourses of ‘successful ageing’ and the possibility of building supportive communities that are sensitive to the needs of older gay men.

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