7 Facts to Consider for HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

Saturday September 18, 2021

7 Facts to Consider for HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day
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September 18 marks HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. Recent data suggests that despite great progress in curbing the transmission of HIV, our older population is still at risk, both for infection and death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people 50 and older account for approximately:

  • 17% of new HIV diagnoses
  • 47% of persons living with HIV
  • 71% of all deaths of persons with diagnosed HIV infection

    Of those individuals diagnosed with HIV at age 50 or older, 40% were 50-54 years of age. There are many older adults who have HIV but have not been diagnosed or aware of their HIV/AIDS status. This may be due to the following reasons:

    1. Health care providers do not always test older people for HIV/AIDS and may miss diagnosis during routine checkups.

    2. People 50 years or older may mistake signs of HIV/AIDS for the aches and pains of normal aging.

    3. They are less likely than younger people to get tested.

    4. Older adults know less about HIV/AIDS than younger people and may not know how it spreads or the importance of using condoms, not sharing needles, and getting tested for HIV.

    5. Older people are less likely than younger people to talk about their sex lives or drug use with their health care providers.

    6. Health care providers may not ask older patients about their sex lives or drug use or talk to them about risky behaviors.

    7. The stigma of HIV/AIDS may be more severe among older persons, leading them to avoid getting tested or hide their diagnosis from family and friends.

    When someone is diagnosed with HIV, they often find themselves battling depression. Older adults living with HIV/AIDS need support and understanding from their healthcare providers, family and friends. When HIV is compounded with other diseases common to aging, like cardiac disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and frailty, the issue of depression becomes significant and must be addressed. Depressed individuals are unlikely to adhere to medical treatment or succeed in making necessary lifestyle adjustments, placing them at high risk for poor health outcomes.

    "Health care providers need to adapt a geriatric model to address the complex needs of older Americans with HIV by extending office visits to allow for managing multiple chronic conditions and health challenges," wrote Jeff Taylor, Executive Director, HIV+Aging Research Project-Palm Springs, for HIV.gov. "Providers can also adapt cancer prevention strategies by providing earlier cancer screenings, especially for anal, oral, and head and neck cancers that disproportionately affect older Americans with HIV."

    "I want everyone with HIV to know that they are supported, and we want policies, programs, and outreach from health care providers, community organizations, and government agencies that reinforce that message," continued Taylor. "Those with HIV coping with loneliness or with substance abuse need access to non-judgmental, culturally appropriate, treatment-on-demand using harm reduction models. Even with all the successes in HIV over the years, there are more than one million people with HIV in the United States today, the majority of whom are over 50, and we need help if we are to thrive as we live into an old age we never anticipated."

    Protect Yourself, Get Tested
    Locate HIV Testing Near You: Send a text message with your zip code to KNOWIT (566948), visit locator.hiv.gov or contact 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) for assistance in locating a testing site.