Whatever happened to dying of old age, natural causes, or of a more common disease known to mankind? There is another crisis amidst the world today and it involves our senior citizens. HUH? How can this happen, why, when, where? These are all the questions that many ask, when they encounter someone who is over 50+ living with AIDS. There are so many reasons why older people are infected with this soul stripping, immunity weakening disease.
In general, the new numbers of citizens living with AIDS contribute to the wonderful advances medicine has made in prolonging the life of someone with Aids. There are people that were diagnosed over twenty years ago with the disease, but are still living. Longer life expectancy is the biggest contributing factor to our numerical equation of seniors living with Aids.
On the other hand, senior women give up using any form of protection because they have been through menopause. There is no chance to get pregnant now, so to many; the use of a condom is irrelevant. Other women feel awkward using a condom, so they never bother. If older men contract the disease it can be considered that they are participating in a gay lifestyle, that they are not protecting themselves while having sex, or a drug addict. Both sexes feel that using protection is unnecessary because they are ‘wiser’ and much older and out of harms way in regards to the disease. It is the ‘Young folk’ that are out here making the world nasty and unsafe is what some seniors think in regards to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
This is where another problem arises. Most seniors feel lonely. Their family members don’t come around that often and the loss of company and social involvement overcomes them. The need to be around someone or to have a companion becomes a constant need in their life. Most people prey on the elderly for their benefits, which could be their homes, cars or cash. Now there are predators that prey on the elderly for sex. There is an outbreak of sex crimes being committed against the elderly. Whether it is forced or casual by acquaintance, the scar is one that can never heal because it has been infected with HIV. Many seniors applaud the first sign of a stranger wanting to spend time with them, for whatever reason. From there a relationship can sprout and the unthinkable happens.
Seniors must be educated and updated on all the current events in the health field. The the task of identifying HIV in seniors is very hard to do because the many signs of aging (cold, cough, tiredness, dementia, weight loss, and swollen lymph glands) mimic the signs and symptoms of HIV. This is where the importance of informing the physician of their sexual activity (whether they feel the doctor wants to hear it or not) when making their routine doctor visits.
Family can help as well, by looking in on their loved ones more often and making every attempt to check in on their physical health as well. Make sure you take them to all doctor visits and make sure you make a list of health complaints in preparation for their Doctor visit. Sometimes, if the ailment is not causing any physical discomfort; they will forget to mention that nagging side pain, or sudden mental status change. It’s like going backwards in time where you would have to teach them like teenagers, or maybe even children ( depending on mental status) by checking who has been hanging around them and making sure their behavior is not deemed ‘RISKY.’