Older HIV patients being let down by social care sector

Research by the Terrence Higgins Trust into the care requirements of older individuals who are HIV positive has shown that the social care sector is letting them down. The evidence suggests that there is a real need for social care staff to be better trained, according to the National Care Association chairwoman. 

The Uncharted Territory report from the charity looked at the experiences of more than 300 people who are living with HIV and are over the age of 50. It came to the conclusion that their needs are not currently being met by the social care sector. 

The report discovered that there is no routine HIV training given to social care professionals during their basic inductions. Furthermore, there is no requirement at any time in their professional development to remain current with HIV research.

Older HIV sufferers facing discrimination

The report also noted that older people with HIV continue to face discrimination, including in care homes. In one instance, a man who had been hospitalised was not able to leave, as he was refused entry to two care homes due to being HIV positive. A third care home only offered to take him in if they received double the normal payment. 

In another incident, a woman in a care home in London who was HIV positive was encouraged to remain in her room, rather than interact with other residents. After using the TV remote control in the lounge, it was taken from her and scrubbed with antibacterial wipes. 

The report denounces this kind of conduct as being completely unacceptable. It says that HIV positive individuals in care homes should not be given different treatment to their peers, as such behaviour only further fuels the stigma and myths that surround the condition. The result is frequently the increased isolation of older residents living in residential care with HIV. The charity is now recommending that staff of social care providers receive continual professional training and development in HIV issues.

“Stark and disturbing”

The findings of the report were described as being “stark and disturbing” by the chairwoman of the National Care Association, Nadia Ahmed. Ahmed says that it is vital for social care services to be able to meet the needs of people. She also states that it is clear that there is a pressing requirement to give support, and appropriate training, to social care staff to make them aware of the facts of the condition. This will enable them to care for those in need of support and help. 

Ahmed added that the recommendations relating to greater awareness of training connected to HIV would be enforced by the National Care Association. She said that they would work to make sure that access was available to all of their providers and associated workplaces.

There was one more recommendation made by the report from the Terrence Higgins Trust. It said that England’s strategic body for the development of the adult social care workforce, Skills for Care – and its Welsh and Scottish equivalents – should ensure that dealing with both ageing and HIV should be a mandatory part of all induction and entry level training for social care workers.

According to the head of sector development at Skills for Care, Andy Tilden, the publishing of the study has been welcomed by the organisation. Tilden says that although HIV is not specifically mentioned in the Care Certificate, there is an expectation (on the part of Skills for Care) that employers make sure that all of their staff members have the kind of skills necessary for coping with the needs of anyone who accesses care and support services – including older HIV patients. 

Tilden went on to note that Skills for Care is willing to work with other organisations to ensure that all employees of the expanding adult social care sector are able to gain access to the most current learning and information. This will help them to offer the necessary amount of care and support that is required. Older people who may be worried about their HIV status can order a test online from the The STI Clinic, see their GP, or visit any NHS sexual health centre.