September 18, 2009 Marks the Second Observance of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

HIV/AIDS Not Limited to Younger Adults: Number of New Yorkers Infected Ages 50 and Older Increasing

ALBANY, N.Y, (Sept. 17, 2009) - September 18 marks the second annual observance of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day and highlights the challenge of HIV prevention, care and treatment for the increasing number of New York's older adults living with HIV/AIDS.

"The number of adults ages 50 and over living with HIV/AIDS has been increasing in recent years, due in part to highly effective medications which have prolonged life for many HIV-infected people, as well as an increase in older adults with newly diagnosed infections," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "The New York State Department of Health (DOH) continues to work with an extensive network of health care providers and community partners to address the HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment needs of New York's aging population."

In 2007, the most recent data available, nearly 120,000 New Yorkers were living with HIV/AIDS. Of these, 35 percent were ages 50 and older. In contrast, in 2002, there were approximately 90,000 New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS, and older adults represented 23 percent of the total. The increase over time is evidence that, with the effectiveness of current treatment, people are living longer with HIV/AIDS.

"In the 1980s and 1990s, many people with HIV became ill quickly and did not survive," said Humberto Cruz, Director of DOH's AIDS Institute. "Today people are living with HIV for decades. Long-term illness and long-term treatment with HIV medications, together with general geriatric conditions, present new challenges for the physical, emotional and economic well-being of this population."

The aging of the HIV-positive population also means that older people are at greater risk of acquiring HIV. During 2007, 816 new cases of HIV/AIDS were diagnosed among New Yorkers ages 50 and older, representing nearly 18 percent of all new cases diagnosed in New York State. This statistic emphasizes the need for on-going HIV prevention services targeting adults over age 40.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people over age 50 have many of the same risk factors for HIV infection as those of younger people. Risk factors include not practicing safe sex; using illicit drugs and/or abusing prescription drugs; and being less aware and knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS. Some older adults are less likely to protect themselves, do not use condoms, and perceive themselves to be at low risk for HIV because they may be recently widowed or divorced and are dating for the first time in many years.

In 2007, nearly 25 percent of New Yorkers over age 50 and newly diagnosed with HIV progressed to AIDS within one year of their diagnosis. This data indicates that many in this population have been living with HIV for several years.

"This highlights the importance of getting tested early for the virus so that effective treatment can be started before the disease has progressed," said Commissioner Daines. "DOH and the CDC recommend that adults up to age 64 get tested for HIV and know their HIV status."

By waiting to get tested, individuals may miss critical opportunities to receive important health care and social support services, said Dr. Daines. When diagnosed early, HIV can be a manageable condition as long as treatment and counseling are sought immediately, he said.

For more information about testing or for a free rapid HIV test, call the hotlines associated with the State Health Department's anonymous HIV counseling and testing programs:

The State Health Department's AIDS Institute also maintains the following HIV/AIDS hotlines for HIV testing and other questions:

  • English: 1-800-541-AIDS (2437)
  • Español: 1-800-233-SIDA (7432)
  • Deaf/TDD: 1-800-369-AIDS (2437)

Within New York City, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene maintain an HIV/AIDS Hotline for information on HIV counseling and testing sites at: 1-800-TALK-HIV or dial 311.

On the National HIV and STD Testing Resource website at http://www.hivtest.org , users can enter a zip code and find local testing sites. Mobile phone users can send a text message with their zip code to "KNOWIT" (566948) and, within seconds, receive a text message identifying a HIV testing site near them.