Older Americans Need to Raise Their HIV/AIDS Awareness, Op-Ed Says
As people are living longer and remaining sexually active as they age, Americans over the age of 50 are increasingly becoming infected with HIV, Bob Lipman states in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed. Many older Americans do not see themselves as at risk for the disease and think that AIDS is "just a problem for addicts, gays and the promiscuous young," Lipman, a member of the San Francisco Advisory Council on Aging, writes. However, people over the age of 50 represent more than 10% of all new AIDS cases in the United States, and women account for a larger percentage of AIDS cases as age increases. Kathy Nokes, chair of the New York Task Force on HIV Over 50, noted that the increase may be due to "heterosexual women re-entering the dating field after 20 to 30 years," adding, "Gender roles have changed and women are not quite sure how to negotiate safe sex." Sexual aides like Viagra may also be helping to fuel the epidemic among older Americans by prolonging their sex lives. Pfizer, which manufactures the drug, now includes safe-sex messages in the drug's marketing, and the Department of Veterans Affairs includes condoms with every prescription it issues for the drug. Lipman writes that older Americans must follow "three basic steps" to avoid HIV. First, they must be aware that they are at risk. Second, they must not be "embarrassed" to talk to their health care providers about HIV, and third, they must "always, always, practice safe sex," Lipman concludes (Lipman, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.