September 18 is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2016, nearly 50 percent of people living with AIDS were above the age of 50.

In 2008, the AIDS Institute established September 18 as the National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day to help increase awareness about preventing, being diagnosed with and getting treated for HIV/AIDs, especially in older adults.

What Older Adults Need to Know About HIV/AIDS

The National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day program was designed especially for older adults:

  • Who might be at the same risk of getting infected as someone who is 20 years younger than them
  • Who were over 50 at the time of diagnosis and are living with the condition
  • Who may have other health problems that can interfere with the treatment of HIV/AIDS

Many older adults are unaware of the fact that they can also get infected with HIV. The unfortunate fact behind the disease is that people of all ages can get HIV, but there is a lower chance of older adults being diagnosed because many of them may not even be tested for the condition.

Hence, it becomes more important to spread awareness about the condition so that people who are unaware of being infected can at least find out and start getting treated.

Statistics show that the number of older adults with HIV has increased over the years, mainly because they have been getting continuous treatment. Another reason is that numerous older adults get diagnosed every year, for instance, one in six diagnoses in 2016 involved an older adult.

HIV/AIDS diagnosis percentage among older adults:

  • As of 2016, 17 percent of 39,782 HIV diagnoses comprised people aged 50 or over
  • People aged 50 to 54 made up 43 percent of the new HIV diagnoses
  • Nearly 35 percent of individuals over 50 were diagnosed with an advanced stage of HIV

Risk factors of HIV/AIDS that seniors should be aware of:

  • Sharing needles, syringes and other paraphernalia
  • Unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Age-related vaginal dryness
  • Ignoring protection because of a lower risk of pregnancy
  • Importance of getting tested and/or discussing risk factors with your physician

It has been noted that many seniors do not get tested for HIV/AIDS, mainly because there is an embarrassment linked to discussing the condition, some of the symptoms might be similar to other age-related conditions and physicians often ignore talking about sexual activity among seniors.

This is why the CDC recommends that individuals aged 13-64 should be tested for HIV/AIDs at least once in their lifetime and more often if they may be at a higher risk.

If diagnosed with HIV/AIDS at a later age, the treatment options remain the same, but there is a risk of dealing with other health conditions and general age-related decline. Fortunately, there is evidence that seniors who get diagnosed with the condition at an older age tend to be more diligent about their treatment and this might be beneficial for dealing with the condition.

Here are some activities to plan for the National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day:

  • Organize health fairs and free screening events
  • Provide seniors with information about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Discuss with elders in your family and encourage them to get tested

Since HIV/AIDS is a serious health condition, it is important especially for older adults to get tested even if it is to rule out a diagnosis. And in case of a diagnosis, remember that treatment and support are always available.

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References

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness (NHAAA). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.theaidsinstitute.org/programs/education/national-hivaids-and-aging-awareness-nhaaa

HIV and Older Adults Understanding HIV/AIDS. (2018, April 02). Retrieved from https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/understanding-hiv-aids/fact-sheets/25/80/hiv-and-older-adults