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World AIDS Day: HIV/AIDS and People Over 50

As global health communities mark World AIDS day, there will be much talk of progress as the number of new HIV infections has declined worldwide. But that number is increasing for the 50+ population. About 15 percent of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses are people over 50, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Much of that stems from generational norms and the inaccurate belief that people stop having sex as they age.

From "Medical providers are often uncomfortable discussing sex with seniors, and often don't believe their elders are still sexually active. This leads to a much later, much more serious diagnosis."

"Since the 1980s, the disease, its prevention and repercussions, has been taught to teenagers and young Americans through outreach efforts and schools, but for those with graying hair, it barely merits a consideration. Many assume their health issues are linked to heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol, major afflictions for this age group, and often mistake symptoms as part of normal aging."

Another interesting stat: In five years, half of all Americans with HIV/AIDS will be at least 50 years old. That's not as discouraging as it sounds.

Because of more effective treatments, HIV/AIDS patients are living longer, causing a surge in patients over 50.

"When Lee Chew tested positive for HIV in 1987 at age 38, the former actor never thought he'd be around in 2000, let alone 2010 … Now 61, he is among the fastest-growing population of the city's AIDS epidemic - HIV positive New Yorkers over 50."

-- Tina Johnson-Marcel

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