Thursday, December 01, 2011

Today is World AIDS Day

HIV/AIDS may not seem like an issue for older West Virginians to worry about. But it is.

According to the most recent CDC data, people over the age of 50 accounted for: • 17 percent of new HIV diagnoses in 40 states with long-term confidential name-based reporting; and • 31 percent of persons living with an HIV diagnosis;

Many people mistakenly assume that older Americans are not sexually active and therefore not at risk for HIV infection. This is not the case. A 2007 national survey of Americans ages 57 to 85 found that the majority of older Americans are sexually active. This is particularly true for healthy older Americans.

Older people may also be less educated and aware of HIV/AIDS issues than young people who have grown up since the early 1980's, and may not take steps to protect themselves.

Older people also may mistake the early symptoms of AIDS for the aches and pains of normal aging and neglect to get tested for HIV, or they may feel ashamed or afraid of being tested. They may not feel comfortable talking to their doctors about sexually transmitted disease.

But older people are no more immune to HIV/AIDS than anyone else.

Older people can help each other by talking about HIV/AIDS, encouraging prevention and testing, and ensuring an environment where people of all ages with HIV/AIDS are treated with compassion, not discrimination.

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