GAY men over 55 are being encouraged to take part in a new study which aims to see whether living with HIV changes the way people age.

The Kirby Institute at the University of NSW is looking for hundreds of HIV-negative men from across Victoria, Queensland and NSW to take part in the research that is part of the Australian Positive and Peers Longevity Evaluation Study (APPLES) program.

[showads ad=MREC]The APPLES study is looking at whether being HIV-positive increases the risk of age-related ailments, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, liver and bone disease.

The Kirby Institute’s Dr Kathy Petoumenous, who is leading the study, said advances in HIV medicine meant aging was now a vital area to research.

“In the current era of effective HIV treatments, HIV-positive people are living longer and healthier lives, but they appear to be at higher risk of age-related illnesses compared with HIV-negative people,” she said.

“The important question we are trying to answer is whether being HIV-positive increases risk of illness, or whether the differences seen between HIV-positive and HIV-negative individuals are caused by other factors, such as lifestyle, diet or other health conditions.”

The outcomes from the research will be used to guide advocacy and care programs for older HIV-positive men.

Researchers, who say they already have enough HIV-positive men in the study, are asking HIV-negative volunteers to provide a blood sample and discuss their clinical history in detail as well as their health and lifestyle.

Meanwhile, $15,000 is up for grabs to help fund projects looking into how LGBTI people can be encouraged to stay healthy in mind and body as they age.

The Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia (GALFA) and the Sidney Myer Fund are calling for submissions from organisations with ideas about how the physical and emotional well-being of older LGBTI people can be supported as well as initiatives to encourage independent living and inter-generational support.

GALFA treasurer Ian Gould said previous funding rounds had supported a project looking at how carers can better engage with LGBTI people and an online service aimed at combating isolation and loneliness amongst the elderly.

“Older LGBTI people can find it difficult to adjust to aged care because often they would only have been out to an inner circle of friends but in aged care that line between private life and public life becomes more blurred,” Gould told the Star Observer.

He added that LGBTI people going into aged care facilities might have concerns about being out to staff and fellow residents and so might be discouraged from talking about their lives or putting up photos of loved ones.

“Ageing amongst the GLBTI community hasn’t had much focus and we want to fund groups to help find solutions,” he said.

Details of the GALFA grants can be found on the organisation’s website.

More information on the APPLES study and where you can register to take part can be found at the APPLES website.

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