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HIV/AIDS Among Older Adults in the U.S.

Although death rates by HIV/AIDS are lower in the 50+ population compared to the younger population, a growing number of older people now have HIV/AIDS. Data released by the CDC show that the percentage of persons 50+ who are living with HIV/AIDS has been increasing. In 2004, 21.5 percent of older adults 50+ were living with HIV/AIDS. In 2007, the percent of persons 50+ living with HIV/AIDS increased to 27.4 percent. Also, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), nearly one-fourth of all people with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. are 50 years old or older. This increase is due partly to improved treatments, such as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), that are helping older people with the disease live longer and partly due to newly diagnosed infections in people over the age 50.

The NIA states that the number of HIV/AIDS cases among older people is growing every year. The following factors contribute to this trend:

  • Older Americans know less about HIV/AIDS than younger people do. They do not always know how it spreads or the importance of using condoms, not sharing needles, getting tested for HIV, and talking about it with their doctor.
  • Healthcare workers and educators often do not talk with middle-aged and older people about HIV/AIDS prevention.
  • Older people are less likely than younger people are to talk about their sex lives or drug use with their physicians.
  • Doctors may not ask older patients about their sex lives or drug use or talk to them about risky behaviors.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults and adolescents get routine HIV screening. CDC’s recommendations specify routine testing for persons up to age 64. Persons aged 64 and over should be advised to receive HIV testing if they have risk factors for HIV infection.

To learn more about HIV/AIDs among older adults, visit these resources: