HIV rates climb among over-50s
A new report has shown that rates of HIV are increasing among older people across Europe, despite many thinking that STDs are a problem restricted to younger sexually active individuals.
Released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Sweden and published in the Lancet HIV journal, the figures also show that rates of infection are actually dropping among young people.
The study revealed that older patients are more likely to have more advanced HIV, suggesting that many sexually active individuals in this demographic are unaware that they are at risk.
HIV often doesn't have significant symptoms until the latter stages of the disease, meaning if people have unprotected sex they could become infected and not realise it. This is why healthcare providers encourage anyone - regardless of their age - to be tested regularly for HIV and other STDs if they think they may not have had safe oral sex or intercourse.
“Our findings suggest a new direction in which the HIV epidemic is evolving,” said lead author Dr Lara Tavoschi. “This potentially is a result of older peoples’ low awareness of HIV and how it is transmitted, leading to misconceptions and low perception of their own risk."
She said the perception that older individuals are not at risk is shared by some healthcare professionals, with many specialist services focusing on younger people.
The study highlights that many doctors assume that patients who are older will be having safe sex and not putting themselves - and their partners - at risk.
It found that a sixth of all new cases of HIV are in patients over the age of 50 and during the past decade this number has increased significantly. Between 2004 and 2015, the number of older people being diagnosed with HIV increased in 16 countries across Europe, including the UK.
In 2015, the countries with the highest rates of older patients getting HIV were Estonia, Latvia, Malta and Portugal.
"Our study shows the need to ensure all ages are appropriately targeted by sexual health services,” Dr Tavoschi added.