The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that persons age 50 and older account for 15% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in recent years. Overcoming a lack of knowledge and awareness in the older population is one of the greatest prevention challenges. For example, in one study almost 60% of older single women who had been sexually active in the last 10 years had engaged in sex without a condom.
Assisted living providers can play an important part in educating residents about risk factors for transmission and what they can do to protect themselves. The CDC recommends that older adults take these and other steps to prevent transmission:
- Abstain from sex (do not have oral, anal, or vaginal sex) until you are in a relationship with only one person, are having sex with only each other, and each of you knows the other’s HIV status. People over the age of 50 may be newly single, through divorce or death of a partner. It is important to have the facts about HIV before beginning to date and have sex with someone new.
- Even if you think you have low risk for HIV infection, get tested whenever you have a regular medical check-up if you are having sex or injecting drugs.
- Talk about HIV and other STDs with each partner before you have sex. Learn as much as you can about each partner’s past behavior (sex and drug use), and consider the risks to your health before you have sex.
- Ask your partners if they have recently been tested for HIV; encourage those who have not been tested to do so.
- If you have, or plan to have, more than one sex partner, you should get tested for HIV. If you are a man who has had sex with other men, get tested at least once a year. If you are a woman, you should get tested whenever you have a new sex partner.
- Because of better treatments, persons with HIV can live longer and healthier lives than was true in the past – well in your 50s and beyond. Therefore, it is important to continue to practice safe behaviors that will keep you healthy. For example, if both you and your partner have HIV, use condoms to prevent other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and possible infection with a different strain of HIV. If only one of you has HIV, use a latex condom and lubricant every time you have sex.