September 18 marks National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, a time to examine the challenges faced by older adults around HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care. Seniors may be less aware of prevention best practices and HIV exposure risks, and are less likely to receive regular HIV/STI testing, which can lead to the virus progressing into AIDS. According to a 2014 CDC report, 40% of people aged 55 and older were diagnosed with AIDS at the time of HIV diagnosis.
Older adults face a variety of health issues, including increased risks for diabetes and heart disease, weaker immune systems, reduced liver and kidney function, dementia, and low bone density. These issues, along with others, are exacerbated for seniors living with HIV. To receive the best quality of care, it is extremely important for seniors to be regularly tested and make sure physicians are aware of their HIV status.
Here in Massachusetts, more than 60% of HIV-positive people are over the age of 50, while the national number is 50%. The higher number of older HIV-positive people in MA – many of whom are long-term survivors – shows that statewide improvements in access to HIV care have made a positive impact on the overall health of this population. With so many significant advancements in HIV treatment in recent years, HIV-positive people can enjoy long, healthy lifespans. However, this is dependent on having easy access to HIV testing and care at any age.
For more information on this topic, please read Strategies to Improve the Health of Older Adults Living With HIV, a brief from The National Center for Innovation in HIV Care at The Fenway Institute. The brief explores the unique needs of older HIV-positive adults and offers resources for health care providers and AIDS service providers to address these challenges.
This National HIV/AIDS And Aging Awareness Day, please join Fenway Health and the LGBT Aging Project in spreading the word: HIV testing and care are of lifesaving importance at any age.