New Vision (Kampala) - January 18, 2012
Tackling HIV has been a priority in Uganda for over 25 years.
There are a number of programmes providing prevention, treatment
and care, but most exclude the elderly.
HIV was previously thought to affect the elderly mainly. They
were thought to be caregivers of loved ones living with HIV or
the orphans they leave behind.
However, with the advent of antiretroviral treatment (ART), life
expectancies for people living with HIV is steadily increasing.
The HIV-positive elderly population, defined as those older than
50 years, makes up 14% of the total HIV burden among individuals
older than 15 years worldwide.
In Uganda, approximately 7% of adults are HIV positive, higher
than the 5.4% of the population aged 15-49. Though they have
higher prevalence, there is not much information on how the
epidemic has and is affecting this group besides being
The burden of disease is almost always ignored, representing a
significant missed opportunity in the response to the epidemic.
One factor is the limited reporting, with most of the HIV/AIDS
statistics in Uganda limited to individuals aged 49 years and
below, focusing on those that are believed to be sexually active
and of reproductive age, however, those over 50 are still very
much at risk.
One consistent finding is the failure to consider HIV as a cause
of illness in older individuals. These individuals tend to have
a shorter time from diagnosis of HIV to the progression to AIDS,
due to age and doctors' failure to consider HIV as a diagnosis
with screening less common for older adults.
Studies have also shown men in sub-Saharan countries over 50 were
more likely to have two or more sexual partners in the last 12
months than their younger counterparts.
They also failed to use condoms as often. In a survey conducted
by the Uganda Reach the Aged Association (URAA) in Kasese, 64% of
older persons reported being sexually active, but 91% revealed
that they had never used condoms in their lives.
These findings show that older people are neglected in the AIDS
response. There is therefore, need for further intervention and
prevention campaigns for this group.
The writer is a MakSPH-CDC HIV/AIDS Fellow at Mildmay