About 22% of new HIV cases in 2008 were women 40 years old and over, according to a a report by The Health Department. In fact, 75% of all HIV cases in the first half of 2009 were patients over 40. This is not all bad news. The HIV population is aging, in part, because treatments are improving and patients are living much longer. What is concerning is that 17% of new cases are older adults.
Many mature women don’t use birth control in any form because they don’t believe they can get pregnant. Since they also believe AIDS is only contracted by young people, men having sex with men or IV drug users, they don’t consider that they could contract a sexually transmitted diseases from unprotected sex.
Adults over 40 with HIV are far less likely to be tested early enough. Some 38% of mature adults with HIV aren’t diagnosed until they already have AIDS where as 87% of younger patients are diagnosed while still in the HIV stage. The impact of this can be tragic it two ways. The sooner a person with HIV receives treatment, the better their survival rate. And, the longer they wait the greater the risk to their partners.
Common early symptoms of HIV:
- Persistent diarrhea
- Excessive sweating
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic fevers
- Recurring herpes or shingles outbreaks
- Gingivitis, oral thrush, oral hairy leukoplakia
- Muscle pain, loss of muscle sensation or control
- Unexplained or sudden weight loss
- Skin disorders like nail fungus or seborrheic dermatitis
Not everyone experiences any of these early symptoms of HIV. So it cannot be stressed enough that anyone who has had unprotected sex with anyone must get tested right away.
Since the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, misinformation and lack of understanding has allowed it to spread at a terrifying rate. Now there is a myriad of school programs and resources directed to young people. It’s time to spread the word to grown-ups too.