Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

HIV rising among over-50s as they neglect safe sex

The Lancet study found that older people were more likely than younger people to be diagnosed with advanced HIV disease and acquire HIV through heterosexual sexual contact HIV diagnoses on the rise among over-50s in Europe
Ben Pena | 27 September, 2017, 21:23

Around one in six new cases of HIV diagnosed in Europe are in people over the age of 50, health officials said on Wednesday, showing a need to raise awareness and tailor testing programs to older generations.

The study didn't look at why more older people are being infected. Gold over the same period, the number of new cases remained stable among 15-49 year olds.

"Government cuts to public health budgets were damaging local authorities' capacity to offer prevention and testing to older people", she said.

While lower than the rate of 11.4 cases per 100,000 younger people, diagnosis rates fell among this age group dropped while it spiked among older Europeans.

Looking at HIV surveillance data from 31 countries, researchers from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the EU/EEA HIV Surveillance Network, found that 54,102 people over 50 years of age were diagnosed with HIV between 2004 and 2015. For this reason, increasing trends are likely underestimated and decreasing ones may be overestimated.

A study conducted by researchers in the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) showed a steady rise in the number of cases of HIV in older age people of Europe. For now, "it's unknown why", Tavoschi told CNN.

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The specialists have also found that more than 50 years were more likely to be diagnosed in advanced stages of the infection, including aids, than young people.

The team at the ECDC explored levels of CD4 immune cells - the cells typically damaged by HIV - of more than 60% of people diagnosed in 2015 to identify the proportion of people diagnosed later into their infection, shown by lower levels of these cells. "When achieved, this should help to prevent further transmission and lower the risk of severe health complications, which is of utmost importance among older adults living with HIV as their risk of mortality is higher as compared to younger individuals".

Reckless sexual behaviour by divorcees is behind an increase in HIV cases among the over-50s in Europe, a major study suggests. "People of all ages need to be reminded that the HIV epidemic is not over and viral transmission is still a very real possibility in all parts of the world in all populations and age groups", said Linda-Gail Bekker, president of the International AIDS Society, who was not involved in the research. "This presents a challenge to think about whether our prevention efforts meet the needs of changing demographics". "With an increased focus on young people, we need to be sure our messaging doesn't leave out other critical populations".

"These findings suggest that the HIV epidemic is evolving in new directions..." More than 36 million people were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS globally in 2015.

In Europe, nearly half (47 per cent) of all newly reported HIV diagnoses are made at a late stage of infection for people of all ages. "It is a very hard group to reach", she said.

Prof Janet Seeley, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "In Europe, the United States of America, and Canada, increased mortality among older people living with HIV is often attributed to increased prevalence of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, and kidney and liver failure, which can worsen HIV disease progression". Health care providers should also acknowledge that older people are sexually active but less likely to use condoms.

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