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Increase Your Awareness of HIV/AIDS in Older Adults

Couple on beackHealthcare providers know that older adults are different from younger adults in many ways.  Many older adult patients are at risk for HIV/AIDS infection and the symptoms that may have been attributed to "aging" or to chronic disease may actually be HIV/AIDS infection.

According to Stoff et al, "A key issue in the study of HIV/AIDS and aging is to identify and characterize the ways in which older adults differ from younger adults and suggest the underlying mechanism that might account for these differences. Compelling evidence exists that natural history and symptom manifestations of HIV infection in the elderly substantially differ from those seen in younger cohorts. Relative to their younger counterparts, older adults living with HIV/AIDS

  • have a more severe HIV disease course and a shorter survival rate;
  • have less desirable health indices at diagnosis (e.g., lower CD4+ cell counts);
  • have shorter AIDS-free intervals;
  • have a higher number of opportunistic infections and
  • have earlier development of tumors and lesions."Reference

Important Things to Remember:

  • Do NOT assume older adults know how HIV/AIDS is transmitted.
  • Do NOT assume older adults know their behavior puts them at risk.
  • Do NOT assume older adults will ask for an HIV/AIDS test if they feel at risk.
  • Do NOT assume older adults have the support necessary to deal with HIV/AIDS infection.

“Older adults may be at greater risk because of their age and the combination of denial and extreme secrecy. Risk may be intensified by an already compromised immune system related to age or to other age-related health problems. Erectile changes may make condom use difficult and vaginal changes may make women more vulnerable to viral infections. Assumptions by older adults that they are safe because they are monogamous, “nearly monogamous,” know their partners, or do not engage in receptive anal sex may create false security.”Reference(Linsk 2000)

Red Arrow Video: Pat 3
Video A man who realized he was a homosexual when he was young and who speaks of prejudice and his infection with HIV.  Pat was given four months to live when he was diagnosed, but he has learned to live with HIV with the support of his family.

Click here to read a transcript. >>

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