Trajectories of Episodic Disability in People Aging with HIV: A Longitudinal Qualitative Study
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People living with HIV may experience disability which is episodic in nature, characterized by periods of wellness and illness. The purpose of this longitudinal qualitative study was to understand how the episodic nature of HIV and the associated uncertainty shape the disability experience of older adults living with HIV over time. Fourteen men and 10 women who were HIV positive and over 50 years (mean age: 57 years; range: 50-73) participated in 4 interviews over 20 months. Longitudinal analyses of the transcribed interviews identified 4 phenotypes of episodic disability over time: decreasing, increasing, stable, or significant fluctuations. Although all participants experienced uncertainty, acceptance and optimism were hallmarks of those whose phenotypes were stable or improved over time. Understanding a person's episodic trajectory may help to tailor interventions to promote stability, mitigate an upward trajectory of increasing disability, and increase the time between episodes of illness.