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Aging With AIDS: An Epidemic's Changing Face

August 31, 2011

"... This month, the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services Planning Council released the results of a survey that found two-thirds of the region's HIV victims were age 45 to 64. The last time the group conducted this study, just seven years ago, the majority of HIV cases were among those who were 25 to 44.


"The aging of the AIDS population has presented new challenges to physicians and public health officials. Not nearly enough is known about the long-term effects of the highly active antiretroviral drugs that allow people with AIDS to live for decades or longer, nor are the physical and social effects of aging on people with AIDS well understood. Meanwhile, the problems associated with providing elder care for people with AIDS and the training of their caregivers and social service professionals are becoming even more urgent.

"Moreover, health professionals must find ways to reduce the growing racial and class disparities among older AIDS victims .... African-American women, who make up just 11 percent of women over 50, comprise 65 percent of HIV infections and half of all AIDS cases among older women .... Nationally, nearly one-fifth of people 55 or older who were living with HIV in 2009 did not know they were infected.

"The rapidly changing dynamic of the epidemic due to the aging of the AIDS population requires an equally dynamic change in the way older people think about the disease. Until recently, people in their 50s and 60s believed they were at little risk of contracting the virus. But that's no longer a safe assumption.

"That's why the National Institutes of Health are recommending that everyone, regardless of age, get tested at least once in their lifetime, and that people who have multiple partners or engage in risky behaviors get tested every year. The new drug therapies have allowed people with HIV to live much longer, healthier and more productive lives, but the corollary to that is that everyone must also be much more vigilant."

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Excerpted from:
Baltimore Sun

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