Organizations Trying To Raise Awareness of HIV/AIDS Among People Over Age 50
A small group of organizations around the country are trying to raise HIV/AIDS awareness among people over age 50 because "[s]exual desire and activity do not end with a membership in AARP," the New York Times reports. From 1990 to 2001, the last year for which complete data are available, the number of AIDS cases among people over age 50 increased more than fivefold, from 16,288 cases to 90,513 cases. Some experts are worried that the number of new HIV infections in the aging population might be worse than the statistics show. Older people, many of whom were monogomous or married throughout the 1980s and 1990s, may be unaware of how HIV is transmitted, may not see a need to use a condom because of a perception that it is useful only as contraception, or may be reluctant to initiate a conversation about sexually transmitted diseases with a potential sexual partner. In addition, older women may be more vulnerable to HIV infection because of physical changes that accompany menopause, such as vaginal dryness and the thinning of the vaginal walls, both of which can increase the risk of abrasions during sex that can facilitate HIV and STD transmission. Finally, older people may go for years without realizing they have HIV infection because many of the symptoms of the disease mimic symptoms related to aging, such as side effects from menopause, diabetes or Alzheimer's. Therefore, physicians may not think to ask aging people about their sexual habits or administer an HIV test (Villarosa, New York Times, 7/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.