The Washington Post recently ran an article stating that approximately 17 percent of people newly diagnosed with HIV are age 50 and older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014, this age bracket contracted 7,500 new cases of HIV infections, with a majority, nearly 5,500, of those cases occurring in people between 50 and 59 years old. Even though the percentage of new cases is slightly down from a previous study, which measured the rate of infection at 1 in 5, the statistics may still be shocking to many.
While the Post speculates that the rate of infection may be due to the growing popularity of erectile dysfunctional drugs such as Viagra, the article posits that women over child barring age may be less likely to use condoms during sex. Despite these speculative causes, the newspaper article admits that older populations have not been studied to the same degree as younger, more sexually active populations. In other words, there may not be a clear answer as to why there is such a high number of new HIV infections affecting older populations.
The article adds that most new cases of HIV infections include heterosexual men and an increasing number of women, but by and large the percentage of newly diagnosed cases of HIV still “reflect the overall HIV universe: mostly gay men, some straight men and women, intravenous drug users” and these folks are also mostly minorities. The article does shine some light on an advocacy organization called ACRIA which is running a campaign called “Age Is Not a Condom” as healthcare professionals attempt to do more to educate older populations, specifically women, to practice safe sex and to be aware that they can still contract HIV late in life.
Even though HIV is not necessarily the death sentence that it used to be, baby boomers already face the growing potential of other health care issues, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and so on. These potential age-related health problems are and can be extremely expensive to treat. Adding HIV, which is almost 100% preventable, into the mix will only compound the strain on finances, stress levels, and quality of life. Healthcare professionals, social workers, and other senior advocates should pay close attention to this disease and address it through increased education and targeted awareness.