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Senior health update: The graying of HIV/AIDS

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Younger people who came of age during the AIDS crisis know the drill when it comes to safe sex, but many seniors may not realize they, too, are at risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 10 percent of new HIV cases in 2006 involved people aged 50 and older.

Senior women, especially, need to be on guard against HIV. Dr. Brad Hare of San Francisco General Hospital’s HIV/AIDS clinic says up to half of new infections in that age group are in women, much higher than the 27 percent of new infections in all age groups.

The website www.grayingofaids.org notes that seniors are rarely targeted for AIDS prevention campaigns. “Many older adults don’t know how to protect themselves from HIV–or even that they can be at risk,” says the site.

At the same time, twenty years of fighting HIV and AIDS has resulted in improved treatment techniques allowing people to live longer, much longer in some cases. These two trends are combining to result in the graying of the disease, with the CDC projecting that by 2015, half of those living with HIV in this country will be over 50.