During the first two decades of the HIV epidemic in Canada (1985-2007), one in ten new HIV diagnoses was among individuals age 50 or older. This proportion has gradually increased since with older adults accounting for one in five people newly diagnosed with HIV in 2013. (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2014)
Almost 80% of older adults are infected through sexual activity.
What makes older adults vulnerable to HIV?*
- Limited HIV knowledge
- Misconceptions regarding populations at risk
- Perception of HIV as a chronic, manageable illness
- Discontinuation of condom use; for women this may coincide with menopause when pregnancy is no longer an issue; for men who have sex with men, condom fatigue may result from decades of exposure to safer sex messaging
- Lack of familiarity/comfort negotiating safer sex in new relationships after divorce or loss of long-term partner
- Changes in sexual expression; may be facilitated by access to medication for erectile dysfunction
- Societal and clinical presumptions that older people are asexual
- Physiological changes, for example the lining of the vagina and anus become thinner with age
Presentation: Partners in Aging Forum – HIV and AIDS Among Older Canadians – Findings from National Surveillance Data. Author: Jessica Halverson, Surveillance and Risk Assessment Division, Centre for Communicable Disease and Infection Control, Public Health Agency of Canada.
Presentation: Partners in Aging Forum – Prevention issues for Older Adults. Author: Michael Bailey, CATIE educator.