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Reaching Older Adults: National HIV/AIDS & Aging Awareness Day

By Michelle Scavnicky

September 14, 2011

Michelle Scavnicky

Michelle Scavnicky

What do you know about the risk of HIV infection for older adults? If the answer is "not much," we can help. The 4th annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD) will take place on September 18, 2011. NHAAAD raises awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS and the importance of HIV testing and prevention education for older Americans.

The NHAAAD campaign theme is "Aging is a part of life; HIV doesn't have to be." The campaign focuses on:

NHAAAD highlights the increasing need for HIV prevention education for older adults, as well as the need for better data collection and more research about the impact of HIV and aging on this population.

Because HIV is most commonly transmitted through sexual activity, many people tend to assume that older adults have very little risk of HIV infection. In 2007, researchers at the University of Chicago surveyed 3,005 Americans between the ages of 57 and 85 about their sexuality and health. A significant percentage reported that they were sexually active:

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One other finding of particular interest to healthcare providers and HIV educators: overall, only 38% of men in the study, and only 22% of women, reported ever having discussed sexual activity with their doctor after age 50.

It is important to keep that information in mind, since, in 2009, people aged 50 and older accounted for 17% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. By 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that nearly 50% of Americans with HIV will be age 50 and older.

NHAAAD is a chance for us to check this trend by promoting the CDC’s HIV Testing Guidelines, which recommend routine, opt-out HIV testing in healthcare settings for individuals aged 13-64. Because we know that many older adults are sexually active, The AIDS Institute also promotes HIV education and testing for adults over age 64 and encourages healthcare providers to talk to their older patients about sexual activity and HIV prevention.

Ways to get involved in National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day:

To download NHAAAD-related materials, please visit our website at www.NHAAAD.org

To find an HIV testing site near you, visit http://locator.AIDS.gov.

Michelle Scavnicky, M.S., is the director of education & capacity building assistance programs at The AIDS Institute.




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