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The New Epidemic

An absence of prevention messages targeted to older people may reinforce the perception that they are not at risk, although HIV and AIDS continue to increase among people over 50 years of age. (See Tables 1 and 2.)

Social and biological issues can be contributing factors. For example, many divorced or widowed older people have raised children who are now adults, and they have time to enjoy dating. Since birth control is no longer necessary for postmenopausal women, they may forgo condom use although hormonal changes that thin vaginal walls increase the risk of HIV for older women. In turn, medications for erectile dysfunction facilitate sexual activity for older men.

Table 1
Estimated HIV Diagnoses Among People Age 50 and Over, 2007–2010
Age at Diagnosis 2007 2008 2009 2010
50–54 3,806 3,651 3,658 3,767
55–59 2,114 2,155 2,144 2,217
60–64 1,019 1,082 988 1,171
≥65 906 858 831 887
Total 7,845 7,746 7,621 8,042

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HIV Surveillance Report, 2010; vol. 22. Table 1b. March 2012. Available as a PDF here. Exit Disclaimer
Table 2
Estimated AIDS Diagnoses Among People Aged 50 and Over, 2007-2010
Age at Diagnosis 2007 2008 2009 2010
50–54 3,590 3,647 3,857 3,902
55–59 1,987 2,091 2,146 2,138
60–64 996 1,054 1,026 1,128
≥65 786 821 844 913
Total 7,359 7,613 7,873 8,081

Source: CDC. HIV Surveillance Report, 2010; vol. 22. Table 2b. March 2012. Available as a PDF here. Exit Disclaimer

Providers who work with older people may be unaware that they are at risk for HIV, and uncomfortable discussing it with patients. In a recent survey of physicians, nurses, and social workers specializing in geriatrics, only 6 percent correctly ranked the top risk factors for HIV, and most did not know the prevalence of AIDS among people over 50 years of age.32

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