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The intimate lives of older adults living with HIV: a qualitative study of the challenges associated with the intersection of HIV and ageing


Older adults living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are at risk of experiencing difficulties in their intimate lives due to the combined effects of HIV and ageing. To date, little research has focused on the lived experience of sexuality. This article seeks to fill in the gap by documenting the challenges faced by this population with respect to their intimate relationships and sexual lives. Based upon the results of a qualitative study conducted in Montreal (2010–2012) using semi-structured interviews with a diverse sample of 38 people aged 50–73 and living with HIV, this study revealed several difficulties, including those related to their social location, whereby HIV and ageing intersect with other social determinants (including gender, sexual orientation and drug use). Difficulties that were identified include lower sexual desire linked to ageing, erectile changes, difficulty in using condoms, stigma related to HIV and/or ageism, changes in appearance caused by HIV and/or ageing, along with the impact of their lifecourse experiences. Our results shed light on the specific nature of the difficulties experienced by older adults living with HIV with regard to their intimate lives, as well as on the importance of using an analysis that combines the theoretical approaches of intersectionality and lifecourse to enhance our capacity for understanding complex and unique experiences.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Isabelle Wallach, Département de sexologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, C.P. 8888, succ. Centre-ville, Montréal (QC), H3C 3P8, Canada E-mail:
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