Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Health and functional status among older people with HIV/AIDS in Uganda

Francien Scholten156*, Joseph Mugisha14, Janet Seeley134, Eugene Kinyanda1, Susan Nakubukwa1, Paul Kowal2, Nirmala Naidoo2, Ties Boerma2, Somnath Chatterji2 and Heiner Grosskurth14

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Research Council/Uganda Research Unit on on AIDS, Uganda Virus Research Institute, Entebbe, Uganda

2 Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

3 School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

4 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

5 Department of Aging and Life Course, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

6 Chemin de Vy-en-Pralon 3, 1272 Genolier, Switzerland

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:886  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-886

Published: 24 November 2011



In sub-Saharan Africa, little is known about the health and functional status of older people who either themselves are HIV infected or are affected by HIV and AIDS in the family. This aim of this study was to describe health among older people in association with the HIV epidemic.


The cross-sectional survey consisted of 510 participants aged 50 years and older, equally divided into five study groups including; 1) HIV infected and on antiretroviral therapy (ART) for at least 1 year; 2) HIV infected and not yet eligible for ART; 3) older people who had lost a child due to HIV/AIDS; 4) older people who have an adult child with HIV/AIDS; 5) older people not known to be infected or affected by HIV in the family. The participants were randomly selected from ongoing studies in a rural and peri-urban area in Uganda. Data were collected using a WHO standard questionnaire and performance tests. Eight indicators of health and functioning were examined in an age-adjusted bivariate and multivariate analyses.


In total, 198 men and 312 women participated. The overall mean age was 65.8 and 64.5 years for men and women respectively. Men had better self-reported health and functional status than women, as well as lower self-reported prevalence of chronic diseases. In general, health problems were common: 35% of respondents were diagnosed with at least one of the five chronic conditions, including 15% with depression, based on algorithms; 31% of men and 35% of women had measured hypertension; 25% of men and 21% of women had poor vision test results. HIV-positive older people, irrespective of being on ART, and HIV-negative older people in the other study groups had very similar results for most health status and functioning indicators. The main difference was a significantly lower BMI among HIV-infected older people.


The systematic exploration of health and well being among older people, using eight self-reported and objective health indicators, showed that basic health problems are very common at older ages and poorly addressed by existing health services. HIV-infected older people, however, whether on ART or not yet on ART, had a similar health and functional status as other older people.