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Grandpa’s Got AIDS? Older People Contracting HIV In Greater Numbers

Sexually-active people aged 50 and older face a greater risk of HIV infection, according to a study published by the World Health Organization. People in this age group are more likely to engage in unprotected sex than younger people — after all, after menopause, she can’t get pregnant! — plus erectile dysfunction drugs, like Viagra, are keeping their sex lives active. But despite all this, screening by doctors for HIV is less common for older people because it’s assumed they aren’t at risk. Also, the period of time between diagnosis and the onset of AIDS is shorter because age quickens the progression of the disease and doctors don’t consider HIV as a diagnosis. The WHO also found that older women seem to have a greater risk of contracting HIV if they have unprotected sex because the vaginal mucous membrane thins with age and can get tiny tears without proper lubrication. Since people over the age of 50 make up about 11 percent of new diagnoses in the U.S. and the life expectancy for those infected with HIV after 65 is only four years, it’s imperative that young people, who were raised during the age of AIDS education, become the teachers. We need to let our elders know that pregnancy isn’t the only risk associated with sex. We should encourage them to get tested regardless of what their physician says. And remind Grandpa that there is no age limit when purchasing of condoms. [Reuters]

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