National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day
Sept. 18 is the annual observance of the National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD).
A day that addresses the challenges that the aging population endure in regards to HIV/AIDS. September 18 is used to focus on prevention, treatment and testing of individuals who are aging with HIV/AIDS.
45 percent of Americans in 2014, living with HIV were aged 50 and older. In 2015, 50 percent of people with HIV in the U.S. were 50 and older.
By 2020, more than 70 percent of Americans with HIV are expected to 50 and older. Although HIV risk factors are identical for all adults, older adults may be less aware of these factors and the importance of testing to detect HIV in its early stages. CDC reports that in 2014, 40 percent of people aged 55 and older were diagnosed with AIDS at the time of HIV diagnosis.
Now with advanced treatments, people with HIV are living longer. LGBT people and people of color are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- People aged 50 and over accounted for 17 percent (6,725) of the 39,513 HIV diagnoses in the United States. People aged 50 to 54 accounted for 45 percent (3,010) of the diagnoses among people aged 50 and over.
- Among people aged 50 and over, blacks/African Americans accounted for 43 percent of all new HIV diagnoses. Whites accounted for 36 percent, and Hispanics/Latinose accounted for 17 percent.
- Among people aged 50 and older, 49 percent of new HIV diagnoses in 2015 were among gay and bisexual men, 15 percent were among heterosexual men, 23 percent were among heterosexual women, and 12 percent were among persons who inject drugs.
- From 2010 to 2014, HIV diagnoses among all people aged 50 and over decreased by 10 percent.
Later Diagnosis and Quick Transition from HIV to AIDS
Americans that are 55 and older have a greater chance of getting diagnosed with HIV late in the course of the disease, which means a later start to treatment and potentially more damage to the person’s immune system. Individuals of all ages newly diagnosed with HIV, 99 percent of those in their 20s lived for more than a year whereas only 73 percent of people aged 65 and older lived more than a year. Late diagnosis is usually a result of older people not getting tested, and thinking the symptoms of HIV are solely caused by their old age.
Sex and Sexual Risk Factors
Research shows that heterosexual and LGBT older adults are sexually active well into their mid-80s, with a 2007 national study showing 53 percent of adults age 65-74 and 26 percent of adults age 75-85 as being active with one or more partners. Reports on an unprecented study of sex and seniors which finds seniors are staying sexually active well into their golden years.
Many risk factors stay the same as age increases, such as having multiple partners or a lack of knowledge about HIV and how to prevent it. However, there are a few unique issues faced by the elderly:
- Widowed and divorced people dating again are less knowledgeable about HIV.
- Women are no longer worried about getting pregnant, so many don’t feel the need to practice safer sex.
- Older people and their doctors are less likely to talk about the patients’ sexual habits.
- Older adults are often not tested for HIV because of medical providers’ misconceptions that they are no longer sexually active. Providers may be less likely to ask about sexual activity — including numbers of sexual partners, using protection and other factors related to HIV/AIDS.
Stigma is a particular concern among older Americans. This is because:
- Older people may already face isolation due to illness or loss of family and friends.
- Stigma negatively affects people’s quality of life, self-image and behaviors, and may prevent them from seeking HIV care and disclosing their HIV status.
Raise Awareness About HIV/AIDS and Aging
- Educate older people about the importance of preventing risky behaviors using age-sensitive information and education.
- Fight stigma.
- Deliver effective prevention and evidence-based interventions for antiretroviral adherence therapy for older Americans.
- Encourage physicians to screen patients of all ages for HIV infections.
Here are some helpful links