HIV/AIDS and aging were not usually two words that went together. When the epidemic first began to spread, those who were diagnosed were not expected to live much longer. Fortunately,with new medications and treatments, the life expectancy of someone living with HIV/AIDS has increased drastically which makes aging with HIV/AIDS a reality all over the world. In fact, almost one-fourth of people living with HIV/AIDS in our world today are over the age of 50. Living with HIV presents certain challenges, no matter what your age. Yet, older Americans with HIV may face different issues than their younger counterparts, including greater social isolation and the lack of a strong, local support system. Older individuals may also face different stigmas when disclosing their status to partners, family, or friends. Aging normally is associated with a myriad of risks including anything from arthritis to osteoporosis. Yet, complications can arise and illnesses can be worsened with aging and HIV. Some of those specific illnesses include Dementia, Depression, High Cholesterol, and Infections to name a few.
In all actuality, there may even be many more cases today than we know about. Why? One reason may be that doctors do not always test older people for HIV/AIDS and so may miss some cases during routine check-ups. Another may be that older people often mistake signs of HIV/AIDS for the aches and pains of normal aging, so they are less likely than younger people to get tested for the disease. Also, they may be ashamed or afraid of being tested. People age 50 and older may have the virus for years before being tested. By the time they are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, the virus may be in the late stages.
The number of HIV/AIDS cases among older people is growing every year because:
1. Older Americans know less about HIV/AIDS than younger people do. They do not always know how it spreads or the importance of using condoms, not sharing needles, getting tested for HIV, and talking about it with their doctor.
2. Healthcare workers and educators often do not talk with middle-aged and older people about HIV/AIDS prevention.
3. Older people are less likely than younger people are to talk about their sex lives or drug use with their doctors.
4. Doctors may not ask older patients about their sex lives or drug use or talk to them about risky behaviors.
Remember, W.O.M.E.N. offers FREE and CONFIDENTIAL HIV testing as well as counseling services. There is no reason, especially age, to not stop by and know your status.