HIV and Aging

 

Screening tests

While HIV is monitored using routine tests, additional tests may be required to monitor your health status as you get older.

Speak to your health care provider about which tests you should have and how often. Some common tests include:

  • Kidney function test: Kidney function declines with age, and certain HIV drugs are processed through the kidneys. For both these reasons, a blood and/or urine test is recommended every three to six months.
  • Bone density scan: A scan of your lower spine and hip measures your bone density and is recommended for all HIV-positive women and for HIV-positive men over the age of 50.
  • Fasting blood glucose test or glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) test: A blood test for diabetes can be done twice a year. You may not need to fast before the HbA1c test.
  • Lipid profile test: This blood test checks total cholesterol, LDL (bad fats), HDL (good fats) and triglycerides. It is recommended once or twice a year, depending on your risk factors for heart disease.
  • Blood pressure monitoring: A blood pressure monitor measures the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. Your blood pressure is one of the factors that indicates your risk of developing heart disease.
  • Colorectal cancer screening: Tests can include a digital rectal exam, stool test or a scope inserted into the rectum (colonoscopy).

Gender-specific tests*

  • Pap test: A Pap test collects cells from the cervix for examination under a microscope. It is used to detect changes that indicate the presence of cancer or changes that may lead to cancer. People with a cervix who are sexually active and have HIV are recommended to have Pap tests every six months to a year.
  • Pelvic exam: A pelvic exam is a physical examination of the internal and external pelvic organs. It is usually combined with a Pap test every six months to a year.
  • Prostate exam: A manual digital exam of the rectum is recommended yearly for people over 40. Your doctor may also order a PSA blood test, which screens for prostate cancer, although this is not always covered by provincial insurance.
  • Breast exam: To detect possible early signs of breast cancer, your doctor will check for lumps or other abnormalities in your breasts, nipples and armpits. A breast exam is recommended once a year.
  • Mammogram: A mammogram uses a low-dose X-ray to examine each breast. It is used to look for different types of tumours and cysts. It is recommended every one or two years for people over 40.

 * We acknowledge the diversity of people living with HIV, including trans people. If you have had gender-affirming surgeries or are unsure about what tests are right for you, talk to a doctor who is knowledgeable about trans healthcare.