Seniors With HIV: A Forgotten Population?
Older adults are a growing population is being overlooked, and covert ageism is partly responsible for this disregard, according to ACRIA, a nonprofit HIV/AIDS research organization in New York City, talk at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.
There is an abiding delusion that HIV is a disease of the young, and in particular young gay and bisexual men, according to Mark Brennan-Ing, Ph.D., director of research and evaluation at ACRIA. There is an estimate that in developed countries with well-developed health care systems, almost half of all people living with HIV are 50 or older. In some countries, that number is expected to increase to 70 percent by 2020. Older people bring 17 percent of new HIV cases and are more likely than younger adults to be diagnosed with AIDS at the same time as they discover their HIV status.
Another research has hinted that two-thirds of all older Americans with HIV have experienced stigma due not only to the health condition but their age. This phenomenon may be even more pronounced among gay and bisexual older men, because of an increased obsession with age and fostered ageism among gays.
Mark Brennan-Ing says that "the lack of perceived HIV risk in late adulthood among older people themselves, as well as providers and society in general, inhibits investment in education, testing and programmatic responses to address HIV in an aging population."
"Ageism perpetuates the invisibility of older adults, which renders current medical and social service systems unprepared to respond to the needs of people aging with HIV infection," - he added.
Brennan-Ing recommends training health providers in HIV screening, early diagnosis, and initiation of antiretroviral therapy in older populations and integration of critical services. Also, he offers targeting prevention, education, and outreach to seniors as well as developing and implementing treatment guidelines for older individuals with HIV. Engagement of communities, community-based organizations and social service providers in outreach, mental health, and social support is also critical.