Raising Awareness About AIDS and the Aging
July 9, 2003
Women of all ages represent the fastest-growing segment of new cases of HIV, and the number of infections among older women is also rising rapidly, authorities say. Though older women contracting HIV are greatly outnumbered by younger women, some experts and advocates are worried that traditional attitudes about older women are keeping public health officials, doctors and women themselves from understanding that the virus does not discriminate by age.
"Older people are loving longer and living healthier, and naturally that also means that they will be entering the dating scene and participating in some kind of sexual activity," said Jim Campbell, president of the Boston-based National Association on HIV over 50. "But the older generation has never been targeted for sex education, except for Viagra."
From 1990 to 2001, the cumulative number of AIDS cases in adults age 50 and older has more than quintupled, to 90,513 from 16,288, represented largely by people infected early on who are surviving longer because of improvements in antiviral medication.
Once exposed to HIV, older women may be more vulnerable to infection than younger women. Physical changes that occur in menopause, like the drying and thinning of the vaginal walls, can lead to abrasions and tears that increase the risk of infection through unprotected sex.
Some organizations and advocates are trying to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS in men and women over 50 to prevent new cases. The Senior HIV Intervention Project in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was created in 1997 to help bring HIV/AIDS awareness and education to those 50 and older in South Florida, where large numbers of older people live. Tens of thousands have attended seminars and workshops conducted by the project's volunteers.
In September, the National Association on HIV over 50 will hold its fifth conference, which is expected to draw several hundred doctors, researchers, educators and people living with the virus.
New York Times
07.08.03; Linda Villarosa
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.