Pennsylvania: Worry Grows About Seniors and HIV/AIDS
July 6, 2005
In Pennsylvania, the number of people older than 65 living with AIDS increased from 71 to 133 between 1998-2002, and the number of people over age 55 with the disease rose from 283 to 487 in the same period, according to state Department of Health data. Nationally, the number of AIDS cases among Americans older than 50 increased five-fold from 1995-2003, said Gina Focareta, communications director for the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.
In Pennsylvania's Allegheny County, advocates guess the number of HIV/AIDS cases will rise among people 50 and older because the county's senior population is the second largest in the country outside Palm Beach County, Fla.
"We just know it's going to hit us because of the demographics," said Doyin Desalu, executive director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania AIDS Planning Commission. "With Viagra and with the population that really didn't need to practice safe sex when they were younger, they don't realize the impact of risky sexual behavior." The organization runs outreach and prevention initiatives in some senior high-rise complexes, speaking to residents about high-risk behavior.
Grace Kizzie, research specialist at the Pennsylvania Prevention Project, a program based out of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, said there are too few age-specific HIV education programs in southwestern Pennsylvania, and prevention messages do not depict older adults as people at risk for HIV and other STDs. Kizzie and a colleague conducted focus groups for women 50 and older about HIV/AIDS and found most were shocked to hear they could be at risk.
06.28.05; Alana Semuels
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