South Florida Seniors Advised to Take HIV Tests
July 12, 2007
This year on National HIV Testing Day, south Florida health officials were taking the opportunity to encourage sexually active people age 50 and older to be tested.
The Broward County Health Department reports that from 1996 to May 2007, 12 percent of new HIV cases and 15 percent of AIDS cases in the county were among those 50 and older. This age group accounted for 15 percent of all new HIV cases and 18 percent of AIDS cases in Palm Beach County.
A surge in the number of older Floridians becoming infected prompted the Broward County Health Department to launch, eight years ago, its Senior HIV Intervention Project (SHIP), said Donna Sogegian, the administrator who oversees it. Its testing coordinator and volunteers visit facilities where large numbers of seniors live.
Many residents say, "'This has nothing to do with me. I was married,'" said Sogegian. "They believe this happens to young people." The fact that many seniors married young and had just one partner for most of their lives leads them to believe they are not at risk of contracting HIV.
Miriam Schuler, a SHIP volunteer, works to challenge such misconceptions: The 88-year-old presents HIV workshops to seniors two to three times a month. Belle Greenman, 86, also helps get the word out: "So I would suggest that you would go and have [an HIV test] and have your gentleman friend have one too," she recently told a group of seniors at the Jewish Community Center in Davie.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale)
06.27.2007; Tina Shah