Not knowing HIV status puts older adults at increased risk of late diagnosis
Today’s sobering statistic: One out of every four people living with HIV/AIDS is 50 or older. What’s worse is that many of them are unaware they have HIV because they haven’t been tested, putting themselves and others at greater risk.
Not knowing their status put these older adults at increased risk of late diagnosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43 percent of HIV-positive people between the ages of 50 and 55, and 51 percent of those 65 or older, develop full-blown AIDS within a year of their diagnosis. They account for 35 percent of all AIDS-related deaths.
What’s Standing in the Way of HIV Testing
Though several barriers may prevent this population from getting tested, a new study out of UCLA found the chief reasons are a mistrust of the government and conspiracy theories about AIDS.
“Our work suggests that general mistrust of the government may adversely impact people’s willingness to get tested for HIV/AIDS,” said Chandra Ford, an assistant professor of community health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the study’s primary investigator, in a press release. “HIV/AIDS is increasing among people 50 and older, but there’s not a lot of attention being paid to the HIV-prevention needs of these folks. Older adults are more likely to be diagnosed only after they’ve been sick, and as a result, they have worse prognoses than younger HIV-positive people do.”
Analyzing the Barriers to HIV Testing
The study, which looked at a small group of people recruited from public health venues, found that 72 percent of the participants did not trust government, and they believe the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves. Another 30 percent believe in AIDS-related conspiracy theories, including that the virus is man-made and was created to kill certain groups of people. Forty-five percent of the study’s participants had not had an HIV test in the previous 12 months.
“The CDC recommends that anyone who’s in a high-risk category should be tested every single year,” Ford said in her statement. “These findings mean that the CDC recommendations are not being followed.”
Next Steps for Older Adults and HIV Testing
Researchers say they need to examine other groups of older adults to determine if these views are more widely held than just among the at-risk population in this study.