The POPPY Study – the seven most frequently asked questions

Besi Besemar March 1, 2015

Are you 50 years of age or older and interested in taking part in a study focusing on ageing?

The Poppy Study

AS the population of people living with HIV worldwide gets older and retroviral drugs continue to prolong the lives of people with HIV, some clinicians, particularly in the USA, believe people living with HIV are ageing faster than the general population.

The POPPY Study is recruiting HIV-positive and -negative people to be part of a national study to establish if this is the case. Whatever the outcome of the research, as people get older their health-care needs will become increasingly complex and services will need to adapt to this.

In 2013, 22% of people living with HIV across the UK were aged over 50; in Brighton and Hove that figure is close to 38%.

The POPPY Study will look at the health of people with and without HIV, to establish if there is a difference in the rate of ageing among people with HIV infection compared to people living without HIV.

Researchers need to establish a ‘control group’ of gay men who are 50 plus and do not have HIV to establish if conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart , kidney, bone and brain disorders affect people with HIV differently as they age.

No medication is involved, just two hours of your time. You will be asked to complete a health questionnaire, undergo testing of mobility and brain function and undergo a bone scan to look for osteoporosis (bone mass). You will be tested for HIV, viral hepatitis and several other medical conditions and blood and urine samples will be taken for research.

Answers to the most frequently asked questions about participating in the study.

1. Why is this research important? 
The overall research project aims to look at ageing in people with and without HIV infection. Some researchers believe that people with HIV are ageing quicker than the general population. Others believe this is not the case. Indeed, recent data from the UK suggests that many people with HIV in this country should expect to live a normal life expectancy, and maybe even longer than they may have done otherwise, as they take care of their health and get frequent medical monitoring and close investigations which aren’t always available on the NHS.

The study is comparing three groups of people – those with HIV infection aged 50 and over, those with HIV and aged 50 and under, and a “control” group who are HIV negative and aged over 50. It is this last group – men who have sex with men, aged 50 or over, and HIV negative – that we are seeking volunteers for.

2. What’s in it for me?¬†
The study is overall aimed at gaining a better understanding of HIV and the ageing process – is HIV indeed associated with more rapid ageing, and whether it is or not, how should healthcare be better delivered to meet the needs of this population. Therefore, the main benefits of taking part are to help us to better understand the needs of others than yourself, who have HIV. However, there are some benefits for you – you will get detailed tests looking at your bone health, your body composition, your strength, etc. (see below) which would not otherwise be easy to get on the NHS.

3. Do I need to take any medication for the study?
No!!! There are no medicines and no dummy pills (placebos) involved in this study. It is purely undergoing detailed investigations to study your health.

4. How often do I need to attend  appointments / how long is the study? 
The study is currently planned to run for 2 years, with a visit once a year for detailed tests and questionnaires (lasting 2-3 hours), plus a bone scan which takes 15-30 minutes at the beginning and end of the study. The study team will do their best to book these visits for a time convenient for you.

5. What if you find something wrong with me? 
All study participants are required to have a GP, so that we can inform their GP if anything unexpected was detected on their tests so that they can be looked after or further investigated properly.

6. What tests will they make me do? 
During your initial visit a detailed medical history will be taken by your study nurse and you will be asked to complete a questionnaire booklet about your health, employment, lifestyle, and ability to manage daily tasks such as cooking and shopping. You will provide blood and urine samples, and will be tested for liver, kidney, bone, and sugar profiles, as well as receive a full sexual health screen and HIV test. Various measurements will be taken, such as height and weight, and your blood pressure will be assessed. Neurocognitive function tests will also be performed, in addition to tests assessing walking speed, handgrip strength, and reading. Finally we will arrange for you to attend a DXA scan to have your bone mineral density and strength of your bones assessed. 

7. When can I start and how do I sign up? 
You can contact the research office on 01273 523079 and either speak to Drew Bexley (study co-ordinator) or any of the research nurses to request a detailed information sheet and to book your initial study visit.

In Brighton the trial is being conducted at the Lawson Unit and Elton John Centre. Telephone 01273 523079 for a chat or email:

For more information about the national campaign, click here: