Aging with HIV: A Title I Never Thought I’d Write

Martina Clark
3 min readSep 19, 2021

Today, September 18th, is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. It’s such a thing it is even a hashtag: #HIVandAging

HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

I spent much of today participating in an online conference of sorts learning more about HIV and aging. On Wednesday, I also spent some time listening to a different panel on HIV and aging. This also marks the 40th year since the first CDC designation of HIV and AIDS cases. So a lot of events are happening and I’ve been tuning in, again, more closely.

Initially, my interest was out of general curiosity, but more specifically, in an effort to reconnect with my own community. But with each session, my reality sunk in more and more. I’m 57. Nearly 57 and a half. I’ve been living with HIV for more than 29 years. More than half my life. My HIV is older than I was when I contracted it. These sessions and the data being presented were not just interesting, they were–they are–about me.

I am aging with HIV.

As my three-year-old neighbor has been known to say, “I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

No truer words, my young friend.

Some of what I learned these past days was amazingly positive (pun intended). In some places, California for example, the number of people living with HIV over the age of 50 is increasing. However, the average age of new infections in this age range is not. This means that those of us infected decades ago are just getting old. We’re still here. And that is beyond fabulous.

On the other hand, the science is showing that having HIV probably increases our likelihood of other serious health issues, problems with aging, comorbidities, or, as we in the biz call it, crap. Indeed, I also learned over the past several months that long-term survival with HIV, while obviously a better outcome than not surviving, means that the cumulative impact of HIV on our bodies ages us an average of thirteen years.

This just adds to the improbable math in my family. As the youngest, who, by the way, never had any biological children, I was the first of my siblings to raise a teenager. I was also the first to have grandchildren. And now, still the youngest, I’m suddenly the eldest. My body is 70. What the hell?

Aging is strange all on its own. Your face looks one way and your body looks and feels another. But, inside, you still feel decades younger. So weird. And for women, being of a certain age is a double whammy because your whole inside squishy parts and hormones change as well. And then HIV is weird because even though we know so much more than we did in the 1980s and 1990s, we still don’t know very much. We’re the first people to grow old with this virus so, in many ways, we’re still the guinea pigs.

Throw COVID-19 into the mix and, well, yeah.

And yet, we’re still here. I’m still here, nearly 30 years post-diagnosis. I was initially told I probably had “a good five years to live.” Shit. But here I am. Creaky and wrinkling, slowly greying, and gleefully getting old. I am so damn blessed and, above all, I am not alone.



Martina Clark

My book, My Unexpected Life: An International Memoir of Two Pandemics, HIV and COVID-19, published by Northampton House Press is available in print and audio.