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Rates of HIV rise amongst older population

Published on 28/09/17 at 10:10am

It is rare to hear bad news in the fight against the spread of HIV, with the global campaign against the virus leading to better support, awareness and access to antiretroviral medicines.

However, a new study conducted by researchers from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control found that new cases had increased by 2% in those over the age of 50.

Another disturbing find of the research was that in those tested and found to be carrying the virus it had more often developed to an advanced stage. Late diagnosis was above the average rate, with 63% of those over 50 identified at this stage, which compared with 47% in the overall population.

The results found that men were more likely to be diagnosed with the condition and it was more often being transmitted through heterosexual sex.

Overall, researchers identified these findings as a change in the direction of the epidemic – with better education needed to raise awareness of the risks of transmission in the older population.

“Increasing new HIV diagnoses among older adults point towards the compelling need to heighten awareness among health-care providers and deliver more targeted prevention interventions for this age group and the total adult population”, the authors of the study concluded.

Despite these findings, young people between the ages of 15 to 49 still make up the majority of new infections. More than 300,000 new cases of the infection were observed in the 12 years through which the study took place, this compares to 54,000 observed in those over 50.

However, with an ageing population across Europe, the study points towards the need to encourage blood tests within older members of the population to prevent the spread of the virus. The rate of diagnosis in older people increased in 16 European countries, with Estonia, Latvia, Malta and Portugal found to have the higher rates in this age group.

Ben Hargreaves

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