Critical HIV Issues for Older Adults
- Often consider themselves at low risk for infection, generally lacking up-to-date information, resulting in high-risk behavior.
- After menopause, women no longer worried about getting pregnant are less likely to use a condom. Some women have vaginal dryness and thinning and are more likely to have small tears and abrasions during sex.
- Aging lesbians and bisexual women are more likely to have sexual histories involving HIV-positive men, followed by high-risk behaviors with current partners, including oral sex without a protective barrier, sharing sex toys without a protective barrier or disinfecting them after use, and sexual play involving the potential exchange of vaginal fluids.
- Although they visit their doctors more frequently, older Americans are less likely to discuss their sexual habits or drug use with doctors, who in turn may be less likely to ask older patients about these issues.
- Lack of communication with a doctor results in many older adults seeking care during later stages of HIV rather than an early diagnosis.
- A higher risk of developing age-associated comorbidities, such as heart and liver disease, certain cancers, bone loss, and depression.
- HIV and its treatments can sometimes accelerate the progression of these age-related conditions, similarly aging and age-related conditions may speed up HIV progression.
- HIV symptoms (fatigue, weight loss, dementia, skin rashes, swollen lymph nodes) are similar to symptoms that can accompany old age and are often overlooked.
- Many live in isolation because they are afraid to tell family and friends about their illness. They may have more severe depression than younger people and are less likely to seek out support groups.
*Information adapted from lists put out by the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, United States Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institute on Aging.