October 6, 2010
Older New Yorkers should take precautions to prevent HIV infection, Dr. Richard F. Daines, the state commissioner of health, warned recently. The number of state residents over age 50 with HIV is rising, partly because antiretroviral therapy has helped increase their life expectancy. Many others, however, are newly infected or diagnosed late in the course of the disease, according to data from the State Department of Health's AIDS Institute.
"There is a misperception among some people that persons age 50 and older don't get infected with HIV -- that it is something that just younger people need to worry about," Daines said. "But the data in New York state clearly show that being 50 or 60 years of age doesn't protect you from acquiring this disease."
New Yorkers in the 50-plus set account for more than 47,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the state. In 2008, they represented 38 percent of all state HIV/AIDS cases, up from 23 percent five years earlier.
Among the state's reported HIV diagnoses in 2008, 764 were in people age 50 and older. Nearly half progressed to AIDS within a year of HIV diagnosis, meaning they were tested late, probably years after acquiring HIV, said Daines.
To address the often unrecognized threat of HIV infections among older adults, the AIDS Institute recently held a forum, titled "Red Ribbon, Silver Threads: Healthy Aging in the Era of HIV/AIDS." To see a report from the proceedings, which attracted more than 170 experts in geriatrics, chronic disease, and HIV/AIDS, visit: www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/aids/conferences/index.htm.