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Canada: Snowbirds Warned of HIV While Vacationing; Prevalence of Virus Among 50-Plus Highest in Southern Florida

November 24, 2009

Canadians vacationing in South Florida, also known as "snowbirds," are arriving in a community that has the United States' highest rates of HIV/AIDS among those older than 50.

Canadian health officials, therefore, are trying to raise awareness of HIV among this population. Older adults, including those dating again after divorce or death of a spouse, may not necessarily consider HIV a concern.

"HIV and sexually transmitted infections are an issue that seniors, particularly once they're out there and meeting new people again, need to be aware of and consider," said Sandra Bullock, a professor of gerontology at the University of Waterloo.

Reporting on the results of a small-scale study, Bullock and graduate student Katie Mairs said HIV testing among Canadian snowbirds is "relatively low." Testing, usually prompted by insurance requirements, was reported by only one respondent in five. Mairs presented the findings in Toronto recently at a meeting on HIV research.

The researchers say HIV is, in fact, a risk for those who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s. Canadians over 50 had the highest increase in HIV prevalence from the mid-1980s to 2002, says a 2004 study by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Generally, data on HIV in Canada's older population are scarce. The country's National Health Population Survey does not ask sexual health questions of those 50 or older.

Still, Bullock is worried that those over 50 and on vacation could be susceptible to a carefree "what-happens-in-Vegas stays-in-Vegas" sort of mentality. "We need to get a dialogue going where people are comfortable speaking about sex and sexual risk issues so that we don't see a growing risk of HIV infection here as they have already seen in the Southern states," she said.

Back to other news for November 2009

Adapted from:
Edmonton Journal
11.19.2009; Mike Barber

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.
See Also
More on HIV in Canada


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