Friday, 15 August 2014
Elders, Sex and HIV/AIDS
Do you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2011, people aged 50 and older accounted for 24 percent (7,771) of the estimated 32,052 AIDS diagnoses in the United States that year?
That would be “diagnoses” - new cases only. As a story at Aging in Stride reports:
”Many people believe the stereotype that only young people need to worry about HIV/AIDS. But the truth is, seniors are also at risk.
“Today’s higher divorce rates, changing attitudes about sexuality and older adults, and the use of Viagra and similar drugs mean that seniors are now more likely than ever to be exposed to the virus.”
Further, when exposed, elders more easily become infected than young people due to aging immune systems that are less capable of fighting off disease along with underlying health conditions that can make elders more vulnerable to contracting communicable diseases.
In addition, HIV can more easily be overlooked in old people and therefore diagnosed much later in the disease's progress making it harder to treat. As the Aging in Stride story explains:
”...the first signs can be minor. AIDS symptoms can mimic other age-related conditions.
"For example, the most common type of pneumonia in AIDS patients can be mistaken for congestive heart failure; HIV-related dementia may be misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's; the fatigue and weight loss caused by AIDS might be interpreted as just 'normal aging.'"
But testing is easy. You can ask your physician for a test and there are many local clinics that offer free testing. In most states results are private.
Or, at this website from the CDC, just plug in your Zip Code for a list of nearby testing locations. The page also has a list of frequently asked questions about testing for both HIV/AIDS and other STDs.
Plus, there is a page at the CDC with more questions about testing that anyone could devise on his or her own. It's a good resource.
Prevention is equally important. As more elders are dating these days and meeting strangers on dating websites is more acceptable, practicing safe sex is crucial. Before beginning a new relationship, both of you should be tested.
And always use a condom. If it has been many years since you last used them, perhaps you need a refresher course.
If so, here is a whole page of YouTube videos on how to use both male and female condoms. This video is a well-done lesson from Planned Parenthood on male condoms:
Today's post mostly mentions HIV/AIDS because an old friend was recently diagnosed so I have been thinking about it. But everything here applies to all STDs.
Sex is a good thing. I believe everyone should have as much as it as they want. Just be careful. Please.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Old Age: I Believe