The rate of HIV infection is “surprisingly high” among people over 50 years, the World Health Organization announced today warning that cases among older people seem to be growing worldwide.
According to WHO’s March bulletin, “The scant data that exist suggest a surprisingly high prevalence and incidence of HIV among individuals 50 years of age and over.”
The authors of the study from the United States said that the percentage of people over 50 with HIV in the U.S. soared from 20 percent in 2003 to 25 percent in 2006. In Europe, only eight percent of reported cases arise from older people. In Brazil, the number of people over 50 with HIV doubled between 1996 and 2006 — from 7.5 to 15.7 cases per 100,000 residents.
With all the awareness of HIV in the United States why is our infection rate higher than in Brazil – a country known for its promiscuity?
“The frequency of infection with HIV in older people is worrying. We need to understand why and when these people are becoming infected so that public health campaigns can be better targeted to prevent such infections,” said George Schmid, a WHO scientist.
Public perception of the disease may be part of the reason since AIDS is still being viewed as a “disease of young people” and therefore older people don’t ask to be tested when they go for their annual check-up which leads to delayed diagnosis. In addition primary care physicians hardly ever consider screening their older patients for HIV so again an opportunity for diagnosis is missed and delayed. In addition older people have lower immunity, which could lead to more rapid deterioration from an HIV infection to AIDS.
The life expectancy of those infected at age 65 or older is just four years, while people who are infected at age five to 14 have life expectancies of over 13 years.
The authors noted that sexual activity remains the most likely mode of transmission for older people.
Potency drugs such as Viagra emerging in the 1990s have extended the sex life of older people, who are also less likely than younger people to use condoms and practice safe sex.
No matter YOUR age, and even if you’re in a monogamous relationship please get tested.