The Rise of HIV in Older Adults

Featured Article, HIV/AIDS, Sexual Health
on October 22, 2013
HIV in older adults

Dealing with frequent, minor illnesses is an inevitable fact of aging, but some older adults face serious conditions such as HIV that drastically alter their quality of life. HIV in older adults is more prevalent than ever before, and managing the disease after age 50 comes with a number of unique challenges and considerations.

Statistics from the Administration on Aging reveal that nearly a third of all cases of HIV  in the United States involve a person over the age of 50. By 2015, it is believed that half of people living with the virus in the U.S. will be over the age of 50.

Why is the virus becoming so prevalent in this age demographic? The higher incidence of HIV among older adults does not mean that people in this age group are starting to contract the virus at a higher rate. Rather, thanks to medical advances that have enabled doctors to better understand and treat HIV, people who would have died from the disease long before they turned 50 are now living well past this mark.

However, Voice of America News reports that there has been some increase in the number of people contracting the virus after age 50.  For one thing, people in this age group fail to use condoms because they are not concerned about pregnancy, leaving themselves exposed to contracting sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. Prevention is the key at any age.

HIV Facts For People Over the Age of 50

Understanding HIV symptoms can help people over the age of 50 seek medical attention as soon as they suspect that something is wrong. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, common HIV symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Ulcers
  • Unusual sweating
  • Muscle aches

The symptoms listed above tend to be present approximately two weeks to three months after exposure to the virus, but these symptoms often go away for a long period of time. As a result, it is possible for a person to be unaware that they are HIV-positive for years after contracting the disease.

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It is essential for a person who suspects that they may have the virus to consult with a medical professional as soon as possible. Older adults may be able to keep the virus under control and maintain good health through the use of medication. Failing to seek medical care after contracting the disease can speed along the progression of the virus and allow AIDS to develop more quickly.

Avoiding Transmission

The Positive Prevention Program is aimed at helping people who are living with HIV prevent the spread of the disease when interacting with others. Healthcare providers may discuss prevention with patients, but it is important for individuals to be proactive about preventing transmission as well.

Tips to prevent the spread of the disease at any age include:

  • Using condoms during any instance of sexual contact
  • Only using sterile needles when injecting medication
  • Never sharing any personal care item that may contain blood
  • Taking medication as prescribed by a licensed medical professional

HIV facts should be consulted in order to better understand how the disease spreads. The virus cannot be contracted through handshakes, hugs, blood donations, mosquito bites, using public restrooms or the sharing of food or drinks.

Maintaining health after age 50 is not always easy, and living with a permanent illness like HIV can make aging well even more challenging. Luckily, in today’s world, HIV is no longer a death sentence. By exercising the proper care and precaution, HIV-positive adults can go on to lead rich, fulfilling lives.