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Ask the Doctor: HIV and HIV Risk After Age 50

By Tamara E. Holmes

May 15, 2012

Theresa Mack, M.D., M.P.H.

Theresa Mack, M.D., M.P.H.

Every month, HIV specialist Theresa Mack, M.D., M.P.H. -- an associate medical director at St. Luke's Medical Group in Harlem, N.Y. -- will answer your most pressing HIV/AIDS questions.

By the year 2015, nearly half of the people living with HIV in the United States will be 50 years or older. This group consists of the following:

As the members of this group approach their senior years, they must grapple with a unique set of challenges. First, this group suffers two stigmas: that of HIV and that of aging. For example:

An added complication for women is that some of the symptoms of HIV mimic the symptoms of menopause. For example, fatigue, hot flashes and facial flushing are common to both conditions. As a result, many women and physicians dismiss the symptoms, causing diagnosis to be delayed. However, regular screening for HIV can ensure that men and women over the age of 50 are diagnosed as early as possible, which is crucial to living longer with the disease.

The Case for Prevention


When it comes to prevention, many people over age 50 are unknowingly putting themselves at risk for HIV.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many physicians don't talk with their patients about sex and the risk factors of HIV.

But the reality is that everyone should use a condom. Whether you're male or female, young or old, if you have sex without a condom, you put yourself at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Not All Doom and Gloom

If you are over age 50 and find yourself with an HIV diagnosis, there are many resources available to help you live a full and complete life.

While any person who receives an HIV diagnosis should get into treatment as soon as possible, those over 50 are particularly urged to get on ARVs right away. Because aging in itself has an adverse impact on health, early treatment can go a long way toward protecting your immune system.

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who writes frequently about emotional health and wellness.

This article was provided by Black AIDS Institute. It is a part of the publication Black AIDS Weekly. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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