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HIV, AIDS, and Older Adults

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HIV/AIDS, People of Color, and Women

Of all the people age 50 and over with AIDS, more than half (52%) are black and Hispanic. Of all men age 50 and over with AIDS, 49% are black and Hispanic. Of all women age 50 and over with AIDS, 70% are black and Hispanic. The number of HIV/AIDS cases continues to rise in communities of color. Educators, healthcare workers, and community leaders need to inform and warn people about HIV -- the dangers of having sex without a condom, the dangers of injecting drugs and using infected needles, and the importance of getting tested.

The number of older women with HIV/AIDS, regardless of race, is also on the rise. Over a recent five-year period, the number of new AIDS cases in women age 50 and older increased by 40%. Two-thirds of the women got the virus because they had sex with infected partners. Nearly one-third of the women got HIV because they shared needles.

There may be a connection between HIV/AIDS and women in menopause. Women who are no longer worried about getting pregnant may be less likely to use a condom and practice safe sex. Some menopausal women have vaginal dryness and thinning. This means they are more likely to have small tears and abrasions during sex. This can put women at greater risk for HIV. Because women may live longer than men and because of the rising rate of divorce, there are a large number of widowed, divorced, or separated women starting to date. Because many of these women do not understand how HIV/AIDS is spread, they may be at risk.

Treatment and Prevention

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Once you are infected, there are a number of medical treatments available to help keep the HIV virus in check and to help guard against AIDS. If there's any chance you might be infected, get tested. Early medical treatment is important, especially for middle-aged and older people. Your doctor or medical provider can give you information about the kinds of treatments available. Doctors and medical providers should talk to patients about the risk of HIV/AIDS, get the patient's sex and drug histories, and encourage HIV testing if there is any chance that the patient has been infected.

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