State Health Commissioner Warns: HIV/AIDS Not Just a Threat to Young People

More than 47,000 New Yorkers Over 50 Living With HIV

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 17, 2010) – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today urged older New Yorkers to take precautions to protect themselves against HIV and AIDS, as the numbers of persons with HIV over the age of 50 continue to increase in the state.

"There is a misperception among some people that persons age 50 and older don't get infected with HIV-- that it is something that just younger people need to worry about," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines." But the data in New York State clearly shows that being 50 or 60 years of age doesn't protect you from acquiring this disease."

According to data collected by the State Department of Health's (DOH) AIDS Institute, an increasing number of adults age 50 and over are living with HIV/AIDS in New York State, due in large part to highly effective medications that have prolonged their lives. However, some of these individuals were newly diagnosed and recently infected, highlighting the need for HIV testing and prevention programs specifically targeted to older adults.

More than 47,000 New Yorkers over age 50 are currently living with HIV/AIDS in New York State, accounting for 38 percent of all persons living with the disease in the state. Five years earlier, persons over 50 represented just 23 percent of the epidemic in New York State.

The (DOH) projects that the number of HIV-infected persons age 50 and over will double by the year 2025, and the number of infected persons age 65 and older will increase nearly six-fold, to about 30,000, by the year 2025.

According to the most recent data available, in 2008 764 persons age 50 and over were newly diagnosed with HIV in New York State, accounting for approximately 17 percent of all newly diagnosed cases statewide. Of the newly diagnosed cases, nearly half had already progressed to AIDS or did so within a year of diagnosis, indicating that these individuals were diagnosed "late" and had probably been infected years before but were only recently found to have HIV.

"In part, the issue of HIV and aging is a success story," said Humberto Cruz, Director of the AIDS Institute. "In the early days of the epidemic, many infected persons progressed from HIV to AIDS and then died. Now, most persons who are diagnosed with HIV early -- before the disease has progressed -- and adhere to their medical treatments will be living close to a normal life-span."

Medications have dramatically lengthened and improved the quality of life for people with HIV, but life spans are still not normal. People with long-term HIV infection face the common chronic diseases of aging, which affect HIV disease and treatment, just as HIV affects the process of aging. New HIV infection is a threat to sexually active but uninformed or misinformed seniors, who are often diagnosed late in the course of HIV disease.

Earlier this year, in response to the increasing number of older adults living with HIV and the often unrecognized threat of HIV infection among people over 50, the AIDS Institute held a forum -- Red Ribbon, Silver Threads: Healthy Aging in the Era of HIV/AIDS. The forum attracted more than 170 experts in the fields of geriatrics, chronic disease and HIV/AIDS, together with older adults affected by HIV, to make recommendations and help formulate effective models of care for older people with HIV.

A report of the forum proceedings, including recommendations for expanded education initiatives, is available on the DOH Web site at www.health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/conferences/index.htm

New HIV Testing Law:

A new state law that took effect on September 1 requires all hospitals and many doctors in New York State to offer HIV testing to patients between the ages of 13 and 64.

For more information about testing or for a free rapid HIV test, call one of hotlines offered in connection with the State's anonymous HIV counseling and testing programs:

  • Albany Region: 1-800-962-5065
  • Buffalo Region: 1-800-962-5064
  • Lower Hudson Valley Region: 1-800-828-0064
  • Rochester Region: 1-800-962-5063
  • Long Island (Suffolk/Nassau) Region: 1-800-462-6786
  • Syracuse Region: 1-800-562-9423

The AIDS Institute also operates 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 also maintains an HIV/AIDS Hotline for information on HIV counseling and testing sites at: 1-800-TALK-HIV or dial 311.