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Yes, anyone—including older adults—can get HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one-quarter of all Americans living with HIV in 2012 were 55 years of age and older. The population of older adults living with HIV is increasing for the following reasons:
For these reasons, the population of people living with HIV will increasingly include adults over 60.
Many risk factors for HIV are the same for adults of any age. But like many younger people, older adults may not be aware of their HIV risk factors. The following are the most common ways that HIV is spread:
Some age-related factors also put older adults at risk for HIV infection. For example, older adults who begin dating again after a divorce or the death of a partner may be unaware of the risk of HIV and not use condoms.
Age-related thinning and dryness of the vagina may increase the risk of HIV infection in older women. In addition, women who are no longer concerned about pregnancy may not use a female condom or ask their partners to use a male condom during sex.
Talk to your health care provider about your risk of HIV infection and ways to reduce your risk.
CDC recommends that everyone 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once and that people at high risk of infection get tested more often. HIV testing may also be recommended for adults over 64 who are at risk of HIV infection. For several reasons, older people are less likely to get tested for HIV:
For these reasons, HIV is more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage in many older adults. When diagnosed late, HIV is more likely to advance to AIDS.
Ask your health care provider whether HIV testing is right for you. Use these questions from healthfinder.gov to start the conversation: HIV Testing: questions for the doctor.
Treatment with HIV medicines is recommended for everyone with HIV, and HIV treatment recommendations are the same for older and younger adults. However, age-related factors can complicate HIV treatment in older adults.
Despite these age-related factors, some studies show that medication adherence—taking HIV medicines every day and exactly as prescribed—is greater among older adults.
Click on the links below to find more information about HIV and aging. This fact sheet is based on information from these sources:
HIV Among People Aged 50 and Over
From the Department of Health and Human Services:
Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in HIV-1-Infected Adults and Adolescents: HIV and the Older Patient
From the National Institute on Aging:
HIV, AIDS, and Older People