More than 20 percent of new Riverside County HIV/AIDS cases are age 50 and older, up from about 15 percent a decade ago, the county Department of Public Health reported recently. Most new cases are senior gay men, but aging heterosexuals, especially women, are also getting infected, said Danyte Mockus, author of the report.
In the era of erectile dysfunction drugs, more seniors are having sex than ever before. Many of them do not know how to prevent HIV, or they feel uncomfortable negotiating condom use, said county experts.
“When I am seeing women 55 and older that are recently divorced coming in as new HIV-positive diagnoses, I know that this is a growing problem,” said Danielle Huntsman, county health and social services supervisor. “Most of the people - this is the last thing they ever thought they would be diagnosed with.”
“It’s a combination of individuals not thinking they are part of a risk group, and the care and prevention community not thinking they are part of a risk group,” said Carolyn Lieber, the county’s HIV/AIDS program director. Her agency supports CDC’s recommendation of universal HIV screening for people ages 13-64 in health care settings, she said. In addition to removing the stigma of testing by normalizing the process, the improved data that would result would help epidemiologists and prevention experts target emerging at-risk populations.
The county has not targeted safe-sex education to residents age 50 and older, but the report is being used to develop a response, Lieber said. The county will see how it can educate older residents and their doctors about HIV/AIDS, and it may add senior centers, Rotary Clubs, and other venues to the sites its outreach workers visit, she said.
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HIV Positive Persons Local Government Agencies Morbidity Rates Older Adults
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