Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Senior sex: the rise of HIV infections in the 50+ age group

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 1:15 PM

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If you are in the age group 50+, you might be thinking your risk of catching HIV/AIDS is relatively low. Well, think again. While this insidious disease did show up first in gay men and intravenous drug users, HIV/AIDS soon spread its ugly tentacles into any and all population groups, including children. Nowadays, statistics show an uneven rate of infection in the Hispanic and African American populace, and a clear rise in senior citizens. According to this month's AARP Magazine, the 50-and-over age group is the "fastest growing segment of the HIV-positive population ... with one in seven new diagnoses of HIV or AIDS being in a person over 50."

Of course, news like that got my attention. Big reminder: Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for infection of HIV/AIDS. "Older people are sexually active and tend to be more so with the divorce rate resulting in older singles. Men are able to stay more sexually active, where they may have not been previously, thanks to drugs such as Viagra," Jill Rips, deputy executive director at the San Antonio AIDS Foundation told me. "Multiple partners are a huge risk factor, and there is a more relaxed attitude toward sexual encounters in every age group."

So, why aren't we seniors using protection like condoms? Both Rips and other sources cited the lack of urgency for condoms because of its association with birth control — a seemingly unnecessary precaution in the senior citizens' case. Also, seniors may not have knowledge of safe sex practices or even a clear understanding how HIV/AIDS is transmitted. According to Mark Cichock, RN, in an article on About.com, "Heterosexual transmission in men over 50 is up 94% and the rate has doubled in women since 1991. And while prevention and education dollars are concentrated toward young adult populations, seniors are not getting safer sex education and continue to become HIV infected." By the way, Cichock's article and several others I found on the internet, were written as far back as 2007! This means, for at least four years, the news has not been getting out to seniors about HIV/AIDS risk, as the rate of infection continues to rise in that age group. When are doctors and health agencies going to realize that HIV/AIDS prevention is not just for certain segments of the population, but for everyone? Adults over 50 need HIV/AIDS prevention education and, the subject of sexual activity and safe sex precautions should be addressed with every patient, regardless of age. So, don't think that sexy gray-haired man or women couldn't possibly have HIV/AIDS. Get tested, know your partner's history, use a condom. Sex is great, but it's not worth dying for. For more from Laura Carter follow @lauracarter or visit A Small Blog  

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