This year, on National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, there are more people over the age of 50 living with HIV infection than ever before. Remarkably, about 50 % of everyone afflicted with HIV are in this age group and they make up one in every six newly diagnosed HIV-positive patients in the U.S.
Since the AIDS pandemic started 40 years ago, it is very important to highlight this day and encourage people over 50 years of age, so they understand they are at risk for HIV, get tested, and if positive, get treated.
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that for adults over the age of 55 who are newly diagnosed, one of every two have already had an HIV infection for 4 ½ years before they were diagnosed! This delay in diagnosis is very important because this leads to delay in treatment, damages to the immune system, and places them at risk for greater illness and death.
Through the advancements in HIV prevention, screening, and treatment, HIV has changed into a chronic illness. Now, patients living with HIV are reaching their later years in life and, consequently have other medical conditions, like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Compounding this fact is the reality that patients with HIV of any age are at greater risk for heart disease, cancer, pneumonia, and other conditions.
On HIV and Aging Awareness Day, let’s educate our community and middle and older-age friends to get tested and be more knowledgeable about prevention. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP – a prevention medication for HIV – and other preventive methods are important and can be used in older patients. Finally, let’s offer them support and understanding to better their quality of life.
Urban Health Plan offers a wide range of HIV services and HIV testing.
Richard Torres, MD, MPH
Associate Medical Director for Community and Public Health