HIV, an unnoticed crisis in adults over 50
How do you see yourself at 50 years old? Perhaps with a good professional position, or traveling around the world, or seeing your children leaving for college. You can count with many dreams and plans, but surely one of them is not to be diagnosed with HIV.
Around the world there are thousands of people who did not expect these news, however, they got acquainted with it and it was necessary for them to change their lives, starting treatment and talking about this topic with the ones they trust, all of which requires a process of assimilation and resilience.
When persons in their fifties are having sex, they don’t necessarily care about using protection like a condom. Maybe you’re not in the habit of using it, or maybe it just doesn’t get to your mind that you might need it.
Unfortunately, the lack of perceiving risk has led people aged 50+ who are diagnosed with HIV to do so at later stages of infection than younger people.
This is not exclusive to any region of the planet, states an article published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet HIV. According to data from seven large cohorts of people with HIV around the world, while late diagnosis has decreased among younger people, progress in older people is much slower.
The differences in percentages of late diagnosis are more marked in three regions of the world. In East Africa, 54% of people under the age of 50 are diagnosed late, compared to 67% of those over 50; in Latin America and the Caribbean, 49% of young people and 61% of older people have a late diagnosis, and in the Asia-Pacific region, the data corresponds to 69% and 81%, respectively.
It should be clarified that someone is considered to have been diagnosed late when he has less than 350 defense cells (CD4) per milliliter of blood, which makes urgent to start antiretroviral treatment.
How to change this situation?
The lack of information aimed at mature people may be one of the factors that affects the low detection of HIV. Today, through so many means of communication and information, there could be more messages addressed to this population.
In addition, the researchers suggest that HIV tests might be offered to the entire population within health services, and not only to groups that are considered to be more exposed to the virus (such as gay men, young people, sex workers, etc.) .
If necessary, the international guidelines on HIV should be updated, since in the United States, for example, it is recommended to limit screening tests to people between 13 and 64 years of age.
If you, who are reading this, are over 50, you can get in touch with AHF Latin America and the Caribbean to request a free HIV test. If you’re not that age, but knowing someone who is, spread the word! We will assist you in a safe space, free of stigma and discrimination. Locate our nearest office in your country or write to us on Whatsapp and we will answer your questions.