New HIV/AIDS diagnoses among adults ages 50 and older in Georgia has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, according to recent data from the state Department of Human Resources' Division of Public Health, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Georgia recorded 341 new cases of HIV/AIDS in 2007 among people ages 50 and older, compared with 189 cases reported in 1998, according to the Journal-Constitution.

David Rimland -- chief of infectious diseases at the Atlanta VA Medical Center and professor of medicine at Emory University -- said, "What accounts for these numbers is a mixture of patients infected previously who are presenting late in the course of the disease as well as patients with high-risk activities who are getting infected later in life." Rimland said that over the last few years at the Atlanta VA center, which serves a predominantly male population, people ages 50 and older accounted for about two-thirds of new HIV/AIDS cases.

To reduce the spread of HIV among the age group, CDC guidelines recommend HIV screening in individuals up to age 64. The guidelines recommend "opt-out" HIV screening, which means health care providers do not need separate written consent to test for HIV. In Georgia, people must sign a written consent form before they undergo HIV testing, with the exception of pregnant women. According to the Journal-Constitution, seniors are the least likely of all age groups to get tested for HIV.

Teresa Kochinsky-Bell, health program representative for the Fulton County, Ga., Health Department's Communicable Disease Prevention Branch, said that people ages 50 and older might not realize that "unless they ask specifically for the HIV test, they won't get the test done nor will they know their HIV status." Gillian Sanders -- associate professor of medicine at Duke University and author of a recent study that found HIV testing might be cost-effective for people up to age 75 -- said that HIV screening among older people should be increased to reduce stigma and allow HIV-positive individuals to modify their behavior. She added, "Age alone should not be a contraindication for HIV screening" (Lee, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/29).

HIV Cases Among Adults Ages 50, Older in Florida Increasing
In related news, the percentage of new HIV diagnoses that were among people ages 50 and older in Florida increased from 11% of all new diagnoses in 1998 to 15% in 2006, according to data from the state Department of Health, the Orlando Sentinel reports. According to the health department's Bureau of HIV/AIDS, about 20% of people residing in the state who are living with HIV/AIDS do not know their status. In addition, of the 125,000 recorded HIV/AIDS cases, about 26% are older than age 50.

"It's a problem," Marlene LaLota of the Bureau of HIV/AIDS said, adding, "We have an epidemic of HIV in older people in Florida." Debbie Tucci, program coordinator for the Orange County, Fla., Health Department, said that anyone having sex regardless of age needs to be tested for HIV. She added, "It isn't who you're sexually active with, just that you are sexually active." Anthony Chester, a senior health educator at the Stewart-Marchman Center in Volusia County, Fla., said that perceived immunity from HIV is not the only reason seniors are susceptible to HIV transmission, adding that physicians are not doing enough. "A lot of doctors don't want to disrespect elderly people" by asking sensitive questions about their sex lives, Chester said (Hernandez, Orlando Sentinel, 6/27).

Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

© 2008 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

Tag Cloud