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HIV/AIDS: It’s Not Just a “Young Person’s” Disease

An estimated 5 to 10 percent of HIV-positive Americans are older than the age of 60. That number is on the rise due to an increase in HIV testing among the elderly that detects new cases and improved medications that are extending the lives of those who were infected with HIV at a younger age.

Yet the elderly are often overlooked in the ongoing HIV/AIDS conversation. This makes it harder for older persons to be open with doctors, loved ones, and potential sexual partners. Do you have the information you need about this disease?

HIV/AIDS can be a difficult disease for the elderly to cope with. It can require managing a large number of medicines and spending a great deal of time seeing doctors and undergoing various tests. In addition, the elderly are already at risk for disease because the immune system deteriorates with age. Because HIV/AIDS is an immunosuppressant disease, it further depresses the immune system when combined with its natural decline, leaving the elderly even more vulnerable to illness.

Being sick with HIV/AIDS is not the only way that the disease can impact the lives of older adults. The elderly are often placed in the role of caregiver for loved ones affected by the disease, including their children and grandchildren. And grandparents may find themselves as caregivers for grandchildren orphaned by AIDS.

Here are a few tips for older adults on preventing and coping with HIV/AIDS:

  • You are never too old to get tested; it is as simple as a blood test. After a positive diagnosis, your doctor can prescribe treatment to improve and extend your quality of life.
  • You may not need to worry about pregnancy, but that does not mean you shouldn’t take precautions when you are sexually active. Use protection and always learn the sexual and drug history of any potential partner, no matter his or her age.
  • Many of the elderly lack information about HIV/AIDS. So get educated and learn how to protect yourself from—or live with—this disease.

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