UNC Center for Aging & Health  |  Carolina Geriatric Education Center

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Screen & Diagnose Older Adults for HIV/AIDS

Older adults are not routinely screened and assessed for HIV/AIDS. Chiao et al (1999) stated that, "Health care professionals rarely consider sexually transmitted diseases in the elderly. In several studies, routine HIV testing in the elderly was shown to be uncommon."Reference As a result, infection is not detected early at a stage when it can be most readily treated and the risk of transmission to others is increased. Differential diagnosis may be challenging given the association of symptoms with multiple conditions.

Important Things to Remember:

  • Do NOT assume older adults are NOT sexually active. Ask.
  • Do NOT assume older adults are straight.
  • Include a sexual history in other health history questions.
  • Include questions about IV drug use.
  • Consider HIV/AIDS as a possible cause of clinical disease and symptoms such as fatigue, altered mental status, rashes, chronic pain, and weight loss.

 “Very often physicians don’t ask the right questions, so HIV is unlikely to be pursued.”Reference(AIDS Alert, 1995)


Red Arrow Video: Jane 4
Video A woman who has spoken out about her infection with HIV. Jane was one of the founders of the National Association on HIV over Fifty (www.hivoverfifty.com), Jane became infected through heterosexual contact with a man she was dating in the mid 1980s.

Click here to read a transcript. >>

*You will need the Quicktime player to view this video. Download the latest version for free on the Quicktime website.


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