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Health Officials, Policymakers Should Implement HIV Prevention Measures Aimed At Older Adults, Letter To Editor Says

August 30, 2017

Issues such as "decreased libido are not the only problems stemming from adults remaining sexually active later in life," Daniel Tietz, executive director of the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America, writes in a New York Times letter to the editor in response to a recent New England Journal of Medicine study about sexual behavior among older adults. According to a study released last year by ACRIA, the "fastest-growing segment of the HIV-positive population consists" of people over age 50, Tietz writes. He adds that 33% of the almost 100,000 people living with HIV in New York City are ages 50 and older. The "success" of antiretroviral drugs "makes it likely that this group will account for the majority of people with the disease in the next decade," Tietz writes.

The ACRIA study also found that "heterosexual sex is the primary mode of HIV transmission," with 61% of people over age 50 who contracted the virus during the past five years "citing this form" of transmission, according to Tietz. One likely reason for this finding is that "condoms may be viewed as unnecessary once menopause has removed the danger of unwanted pregnancy," Tietz writes, adding that because "few HIV-prevention resources are aimed at older adults, new infection rates could grow."

The "aging HIV/AIDS population faces a health care system and social support network ill prepared to meet its needs," according to Tietz. New York City was the first in the U.S. to "begin an HIV prevention program for older adults," Tietz writes, concluding, "It is vital that officials, policymakers and others initiate similar efforts" (Tietz, New York Times, 8/30).

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