Sep 22, 2010
HIV warning for over 50s
More over 50s are contracting HIV than ever before and there is a warning that their diagnoses could come too late.
710 over 50s were diagnosed with HIV in 2007, compared to 299 in 2000, according to new figures released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
Other sexually transmitted infections have shown a similar increase in the same age group, rising at a faster rate than in younger age groups.
Late HIV diagnosis
Almost half of those diagnosed in 2007 were found to be at an advanced stage of HIV infection, severely limiting the benefits of HIV treatment.
In fact 14% of those diagnosed at an advanced stage in their infections were dead a year later, compared to 1% of older patients who had been diagnosed earlier.
“We have a group of people who don’t get tested because they don’t think they are at risk,” said Dr Valerie Delpech of the Health Protection Agency.
The HPA estimates that half of those diagnosed between 2000 and 2007 were actually infected when they were aged 50 or over.
Older people with HIV were more likely to be gay, white men. But “it wasn’t all gay men”, said Dr Delpech, “In fact, there were a large proportion of heterosexual men and women”.
The charity Terrence Higgins Trust says its own research confirms that over 50s were now the fastest growing group of people with HIV in the UK.
Better sex for older people
Some experts say more divorces and better health might be behind the rise in HIV infection rates, with older people having more sex.
“What this means is that screening is particularly important in people over 50,” said Dr. Anupam B. Jena, who was not involved in this study. “The take home point from this paper is that it always makes sense to be screening younger people for HIV, but that maybe the balance should shift a little bit toward older people.”
A separate study carried out by Dr. Jena found that 60-year-old men taking Viagra had twice the rate of STDs of those not taking the drug.