The Unmentionable: HIV and the Older Adult, Are they at Risk?

By: Kandace L. West, Pharm.D.

I came across this recent statistic: by 2015, 50% of people with HIV will be 50 years or older http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/AoA_Programs/HPW/HIV_AIDS/

In case you may not realize it, it is now 2013 and 2015 is a year and a half away! So what does this mean?

This means: (1) not only are people living longer with HIV due to an increase in antiviral therapies (which is an amazing accomplishment), but (2) unfortunately many older adults are unaware of their risk of HIV and are becoming newly infected as adults in their 40s, 50s, 60s and sometimes 70s as well. So, why is this?

Well let’s think about the numbers. Currently, according to the CDC, there are 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and roughly a quarter are 50 years and older: 275,000 people. Again, when I talk about the numbers, does anyone imagine an older adult, mother, father, grandmother, aunt or uncle being at risk for this disease? No, no one does and most people still believe it is a disease that only affects people in their teenage years or early twenties, the LGBT community or non-married people. It is precisely this lack of awareness that leads to an attitude lacking in precaution. The reality is that a growing number of people age 50 and older represent 25% of the population of people with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and this segment will continue to grow so long as the pervasiveness attitude of unawareness is allowed to persist.

June 27th is National HIV TESTING DAY and an excellent opportunity to take the time to learn more about HIV testing and how to keep individuals, especially our older adults safe and healthy from this disease.  Below is the link to find more information for testing and to increase awareness for the unmentionable risk group, the older adult.

http://aids.gov/news-and-events/awareness-days/hiv-testing-day/