Los Angeles Times Examines Efforts To Prevent Spread of HIV/AIDS Among U.S. Adults Ages 50, Older
The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined the "national push" to increase HIV/AIDS prevention efforts among adults ages 50 and older in the U.S. As people begin to live longer than previous generations and experience extended sex lives because of hormone replacement therapy and erectile dysfunction drugs, there is a "growing concern that the baby boom generation -- and their elders -- don't understand that getting older doesn't make one immune" to HIV/AIDS, according to the Times. That concern is fueling efforts by public health officials and educators for scaled up prevention efforts aimed at "aging baby boomers and those who are firmly in their golden years," the Times reports.
Most medical experts agree that the older U.S. population often is among the "most overlooked" and, therefore, "one of the more vulnerable" populations to HIV/AIDS, the Times reports. Experts note that the majority of funding for HIV/AIDS prevention education during the last 20 years has been aimed at teenagers, urban residents and men who have sex with men. In addition, older people often are reluctant to talk about sex with their doctors, according to AARP. A study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that a majority of 3,005 surveyed U.S. adults ages 57 to 85 have sex two to three times monthly. However, only 38% of the men and 22% of the women surveyed had discussed sex with a doctor since they turned 50, according to the report. The report also found that doctors are uncomfortable with discussing the risks of sexually transmitted infections with older patients, the Times reports.
Spencer Lieb, senior epidemiologist at the Bureau of HIV/AIDS at the Florida Department of Health, said that part of the problem with determining what risks older U.S. residents face comes from a lack of testing data. Lieb said some of the increase in the number of people ages 50 and older living with HIV/AIDS can be attributed to people who are living longer with the disease. Researchers "don't really know what the true prevalence" of STI infection is in "this group," Lieb said, adding, "There's reason to think, at least anecdotally, this is a combustible situation that is being overlooked" (Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times, 11/26).