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Over 50s missing from the HIV response says UNAIDS report

Friday, 1 November, 2013

The over 50s are increasingly underserved by HIV services, according to a new report released today by UNAIDS. ‘HIV and Ageing’ supplements the 2013 Global Report, and focuses on the shifting demographic of the HIV epidemic, as a result of the growing number of people living with HIV age 50 and over. New figures show that in low- and middle-income countries, 10 percent of people living with HIV are aged 50 and above. This number is even higher in high-income countries – at 33 percent.

The report identifies three reasons as to why there is a higher prevalence of ageing people living with HIV aged 50 and over. Firstly, antiretroviral treatment means that people are living longer and healthier lives. Secondly, fewer people are becoming infected with HIV, meaning the disease burden is shifting to older populations. Finally, we are seeing older generations  participating in risky behaviour much like young people – and there are indications that their knowledge of STDs and HIV is lower than that of younger generations.

The number of people living with HIV who are over 50 has increased every year since 2007, and a greater targeting of this group is crucial to ensure lives are not lost – particularly in low- and middle-income countries where there are very few HIV strategies aimed at older populations. According to UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe, “more attention needs to be given to their specific needs and to integrating HIV services into other health services which people 50 years and over may already have access to.” In particular, integrating services into non-communicable disease screening and treatment would be the ideal platform to ensure that the needs of this group are met. Ultimately, comprehensive HIV strategies need to be in place to ensure changing patterns of HIV epidemics are responded to quickly.