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HIV/AIDS

What is HIV/AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome:

  • Acquired means you can get infected with it;
  • Immune Deficiency means a weakness in the body’s system that fights diseases.
  • Syndrome means a group of health problems that make up a disease.

AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. If you get infected with HIV, your body will try to fight the infection. It will make “antibodies,” special molecules to fight HIV.

A blood test for HIV looks for these antibodies. If you have them in your blood, it means that you have HIV infection. People who have the HIV antibodies are called “HIV-Positive.” Fact Sheet 102 has more information on HIV testing.

Being HIV-positive, or having HIV disease, is not the same as having AIDS. Many people are HIV-positive but don’t get sick for many years. As HIV disease continues, it slowly wears down the immune system. Viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria that usually don’t cause any problems can make you very sick if your immune system is damaged. These are called “opportunistic infections.” See Fact Sheet 500 for an overview of opportunistic infections.

Older people are at increasing risk for HIV/AIDS and other STDs. A growing number of older people now have HIV/AIDS. About 19 percent of all people with HIV/AIDS in this country are age 50 and older. Because older people don't get tested for HIV/AIDS on a regular basis, there may be even more cases than currently known.

Many factors contribute to the increasing risk of infection in older people. In general, older Americans know less about HIV/AIDS and STDs than younger age groups because the elderly have been neglected by those responsible for education and prevention messages. In addition, older people are less likely than younger people to talk about their sex lives or drug use with their doctors, and doctors don't tend to ask their older patients about sex or drug use. Finally, older people often mistake the symptoms of HIV/AIDS for the aches and pains of normal aging, so they are less likely to get tested.


HIV/AIDS in Older Adults:

Older people are at increasing risk for HIV/AIDS and other STDs. A growing number of older people now have HIV/AIDS. About 19 percent of all people with HIV/AIDS in this country are age 50 and older. Because older people don't get tested for HIV/AIDS on a regular basis, there may be even more cases than currently known.

Many factors contribute to the increasing risk of infection in older people. In general, older Americans know less about HIV/AIDS and STDs than younger age groups because the elderly have been neglected by those responsible for education and prevention messages. In addition, older people are less likely than younger people to talk about their sex lives or drug use with their doctors, and doctors don't tend to ask their older patients about sex or drug use. Finally, older people often mistake the symptoms of HIV/AIDS for the aches and pains of normal aging, so they are less likely to get tested.

Prevention Challenges:

Many older adults are sexually active and thus are as vulnerable as younger persons to acquiring HIV through sexual transmission. A recent survey of sexual behavior among older adults showed that 73% of persons aged 57–64 had had sex during the past year, as had 53% of those aged 65–74 and 26% of those aged 75–85. Read More.

Research Articles:

Persons Aged 50 and Older

The number of persons aged 50 years and older living with HIV/AIDS has been increasing in recent years. Read More.

News and Updates:

White House debuts the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS)

July 13, 2010

On July 13, 2010 the White House released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). This ambitious plan is the nation's first-ever comprehensive coordinated HIV/AIDS roadmap with clear and measurable targets to be achieved by 2015. Read More.

Resources:

HIV/AIDS A-Z Index

Order Free HIV/AIDS Publications

HRSA CAREAction. Primary Care and HIV/AIDS: Building Capacity (April 2006) 


 This newsletter addresses building capacity for primary care services for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). It highlights Grantee initiatives for service expansion to provide culturally competent care and support to the growing needs of the PLWHA community. The newsletter includes sections on Grantee lessons and HRSA's Supporting Networks of HIV Care Initiative. Click Here to order. Use inventory code HAB00404.

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