HIV Rates Rise Among Older European Adults

The increase in the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among the older population is a well documented recent development.  Seniors are living longer in good health and many remain sexually active.  But without worry over unplanned pregnancy, some older adults may be unaware of the health risks of unprotected sex.  With the advent of the little blue pill and groups of seniors, many single, living in close quarters in retirement communities, STDs are on the rise and efforts are being made by health care providers and retirement home administrators to educate seniors on the risks of unprotected sex.

In Europe, cases of HIV are increasing in people over the age of 50 and yet most awareness campaigns are directed toward youth.  According to a recent Reuters report, approximately one in six new HIV cases diagnosed in Europe are in people over 50.  This age group is more likely to have advanced HIV and to have contracted it through heterosexual sex.

At present, nearly 37 million people worldwide are estimated to have Human Immunodeficiency Virus which causes AIDS.   The majority of the cases are in poor regions including Africa where testing, prevention and treatment efforts are limited but the disease persists even in more wealthy countries throughout Europe.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control studies have found that the rate of HIV diagnosis among adults over 50 increased in 16 European countries between 2004 and 2015 including Britain, Belgium, Germany and Ireland.  Rates were highest among older adults in Estonia, Latvia, Malta and Portugal.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 45 per cent of Americans living with diagnosed HIV are over the age of 50.   Older adults may be less aware of their risk for contracting HIV and are more likely to receive a diagnosis later in the course of the disease.  This means that treatment is often started late and more immune system damage may have occurred.

To help prevent the spread of HIV among seniors, the CDC is working to fight the stigma surrounding the disease and educate older adults about their risk for HIV.  Older adults may be less likely to discuss their sexual activity or drug use with their doctor and may not be aware of the need for condom use.  Additionally, women over 50 who experience vaginal thinning or dryness may be at increased risk for HIV infection.

To learn more about HIV prevention, testing and treatment visit Act Against AIDS here.