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Virtual Villages Show Promise for Supporting People Aging with HIV

March 19, 2024

More than 50% of individuals living with HIV in the United States are aged 50+ and this group faces an array of challenges to successful aging. Assistant Professor Andrea N. Polonijo's recent study, "Brief Virtual Intervention Associated with Increased Social Engagement and Decreased Negative Affect Among People Aging with HIV", highlights the potential of virtual communities to bridge gaps in social support and combat social isolation among this aging population.

Using a community-engaged approach, Polonijo and co-authors piloted an online "Virtual Village" intervention–an online community that featured opportunities for social interaction, access to regional and national resources, expert presentations, and mindful meditation exercises–with people living with HIV aged 50+ in three U.S. regions. Surveys conducted before and after participants engaged in the intervention revealed a notable increase in participants' social engagement scores, indicative of enhanced social interaction, and a significant decrease in participants' negative affect scores, highlighting improvements in mental well-being. Additionally, participants reported a positive sense of connectedness to the Virtual Village community.

The success of this pilot study lays a foundation for further exploration and implementation of Virtual Village interventions, offering hope for aging populations seeking support and connection in the digital age.

Read the full article in AIDS Care.