Baltimore Sun (09.24.11) - Tuesday, October 11, 2011
People older than age 50 are the fastest-growing segment of
the US HIV/AIDS population. In fact, CDC estimates that by
2015, they will comprise more than half of those infected.
A recent survey by the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services
Planning Council found that two-thirds of HIV/AIDS patients in
the region are ages 45 to 64. The council's previous survey,
conducted seven years ago, found that most patients were 25 to
Improved treatment has made it possible for patients to live
longer lives, yet their survival raises other issues. Older
patients may lack support for coping with the disease, and
those who have unprotected sex may be at risk of spreading the
virus to others.
Two years ago, after diagnosing HIV in persons they never
suspected of being infected, doctors at Baltimore's Chase
Brexton Health Services began screening all patients for HIV,
including those with no risk factors. Eva Hersh, the center's
chief medical officer, noted that vaginal dryness resulting
from low estrogen levels can put post-menopausal women at risk
of vaginal tears through which HIV can enter.
"There is a need for us to prepare for the baby boomers who
have HIV," acknowledged Angela Wakhweya, deputy director of
the Maryland Infectious Disease and Environmental Health
Health officials also are studying how HIV/AIDS affects the
aging body. Long-term survivors seem to have increased chances
of developing inflammation-induced conditions like kidney,
bone, liver, and lung disease. Some are more prone to certain
cancers. Medical studies have suggested seniors with HIV/AIDS
are three to four times more likely to develop osteoporosis.
Stigma, sometimes leading to self-isolation, is a factor as
Public health officials are stepping-up their focus on older
residents with HIV/AIDS: Support groups targeting these
patients have launched, and Baltimore now offers free HIV
tests at city senior centers.