HIV-Positive Seniors Are the Focus of Florida Program
June 17, 2004
South Florida's growing senior population has the highest incidence of HIV among seniors in the nation. National Institutes on Aging statistics show Broward County has 1,956 reported AIDS cases among seniors, representing 13 percent of the county's total reported cases; health officials say the national average is 11 percent. "The face of HIV is getting gray hair," said Paul Spearing, program analyst with the Senior HIV Intervention Project (SHIP), a tri-county venture providing citizens 50 and older with HIV information and referrals.Adapted from:
Broward County Health Department is sponsoring SHIP in its efforts to raise HIV/AIDS awareness. Central to SHIP's initiative is dispelling the myth that seniors are not sexually active, said Spearing, who maintains that doctors often forgo inquiring about an older person's sex life and overlook indications of HIV. "Symptoms like loss of appetite, diarrhea, and forgetfulness mimic old age. It could be old age or the beginning stages of HIV," he noted. Heterosexual women over 60 are one of the fastest growing risk groups for HIV, Spearing pointed out.
"Women, blacks and Hispanic women" are among the groups seeing the greatest increases in senior HIV cases, noted Jolene Mullins, an early interventions consultant. "We've also seen increases in senior men who have sex with men," she said.
Spearing said sex is not the only way seniors are contracting HIV. Seniors on fixed incomes may share needles to keep rising drug costs down. Spearing asks his audiences at housing communities and nursing homes how many times they have shared needles and said he gets a positive response. "If they can't afford diabetes medication they might borrow needles that have been used," he explained. For information on SHIP, telephone 954-467-4779.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
06.11.2004; Jerry Libonati
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.