‘Age Is Not A Condom…’

“Human Immunodeficency Virus – stylized rendering” by Los Alamos National Laboratory (Courtesy the fine folks at Wikimedia Commons).

Bill Myers

Washington, DC—Good morning, ProviderNation. Exactly half of Americans living with HIV are now aged 50 or older, the fine folks at SAGE, the advocacy group for gay, lesbian, and transgender elders, say. By the end of the decade, more than 70 percent of HIV patients will be 50 or older.

It gets worse (as such things are bound to do). SAGE cites research showing that “older adults with HIV have higher rates of depression, struggle with more comorbidities, and lack robust support networks to enable them to age in place with dignity and respect.”

“Social isolation, higher rates of poverty, and a lack of access to culturally competent healthcare compound the problem,” the group adds. “What is most upsetting about these age-related disparities? HIV-positive older adults are more likely to be diagnosed later, too often when the virus has progressed to AIDS.”

Age Is Not A Condom

As you might expect, SAGE has its own thoughts on how to address the problem:

“(1) expand care, services, and support for older adults living with HIV/AIDS; (2) initiate new research; (3) revise testing guidelines; and (4) improve data collection. What are some concrete examples of actions the federal government can take? One easy example: the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) recommendation on routine HIV testing, which currently cuts off at age 65. Testing has been shown to be life saving and cost-effective well beyond that age, and USPSTF should amend this policy to include individuals 65 and over. Another easy example: targeted prevention campaigns. ACRIA’s Age is Not a Condom campaign provides a great example of what the federal government could do. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should develop prevention campaigns and other interventions targeting older adults.”

An Essential Challenge

This feels like an essential challenge to providers for three reasons. First, it’s not as though they already lack for comorbidities in their care centers. Second, we’ve still not rid ourselves of the cultural stigma of HIV/AIDS, and so work will obviously need to be done, not only with staff, but (crucially) with residents and families. Third, it’s very clear that an aging libido isn’t a dead one, and the collision of sexually transmitted diseases, a population of elders who came of age in “the post-pill paradise,” and dementia can get, um, messy.

In any case, SAGE is hosting a Webinar today at 3 p.m. EST. There’s no continuing ed credit, but it might be worth a listen.

Bill Myers is Provider’s senior editor. Email him at wmyers@providermagazine.com. Follow him on Twitter, @ProviderMyers.

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Filed under health care, Long term care

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