Reading Help

“Together we can age without HIV”

By: Christine Perez

The National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (also known as NHAAAD) was launched on September 18 to bring awareness to the challenging issues that the aging population encounter with HIV prevention, testing, care, and treatment.

It’s expected that by the year 2033, the number of older adults will outnumber people younger than 18 in the United States. This data supports the projection that the United States will not only see an increase in its older adult population, but that this population will continue to be more racially and ethnically diverse.

With the life expectancy of older adults increasing, it’s imperative to educate and inform this population on maintaining a healthy quality of life, starting with caring for their own bodies. It’s also important to recognize that aging is a natural process of life, and it is normal for the body and its functions go through changes, including cognitive loss and higher vulnerability to diseases including sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

According to the CDC, at the end of 2014, an estimated 428,724 people aged 50 and over were living with diagnosed HIV in the United States. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that damages and weakens the body’s immune system and leaves an infected person vulnerable to diseases, infections, and cancer. When the body is weakened and unable to fight other diseases and infections, it can lead to the last stage of HIV, which is AIDS (acquired immune-deficiency syndrome). It’s important to mention that not everyone who has HIV has AIDS.

Older adults have the same HIV risk factors as younger people, but may be less aware of their risk factors for acquiring HIV. The lack of awareness contributes to sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, the most important prevention for older adults is to be educated on the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

For example, the CDC Act Against AIDS initiative focuses on raising awareness, fighting stigma, and reducing the risk of HIV infection among at-risk populations. Act Against AIDS includes the following campaigns: Let’s Stop HIV TogetherHIV Screening. Standard Care.Prevention IS CareHIV Treatment Works, and Start Talking. Stop HIV.

The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), has partnered with the CDC and ASPIRA in their Partnering and Communicating Together to Act Against AIDS (PACT) initiative to focus on HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts within the Hispanic community that directly target a hardly reached population: Latino seniors, families, and caregivers.

The reality is that older adults continue to be involved in and enjoy an active sex life. Together, we can promote and create awareness, break the stigma and be a voice for the voiceless and advocate for older adults to age in the best possible heath.