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Approximately 4.2 million over 50s are now living with HIV
Michael Carter, 2014-09-30 08:20:00
data showing the ageing of the global HIV epidemic has been published in the
online edition of AIDS. Using UNAIDS
prevalence figures, investigators estimated that 4.2 million people aged 50
years or older were living with HIV in 2013. Prevalence among older people has more
than doubled since 1995. Comparison with alternative data sources suggested
that the UNAIDS figure was generally reliable.
“The number of
people living with HIV aged 50 years and older is increasing,” comment the
authors. “This trend is evident in the most recent UNAIDS estimates and is
confirmed in national household survey data.”
There are number of possible explanations for the
ageing of the HIV-infected population, especially the success of antiretroviral
therapy and a high rate of new infections among older patients.
understanding of the extent of the epidemic among the over 50s is needed so
that appropriate medical services can be planned. This is especially important
because HIV infection has been associated with an increased risk of diseases
associated with old age.
UNAIDS therefore analysed their own prevalence data to estimate the total
number of older patients living with HIV in 2013. They also examined long-term
trends in HIV infections among older patients and used national household
surveys to see if their estimates were accurate.
The UNAIDS data
showed that an estimated 4.2 million people aged 50 and older were living with
HIV in 2013. The region with the largest number of older HIV-positive patients
was sub-Saharan Africa (2.5 million patients).
There was a steady
increase in the number of people living with HIV aged 50 and older between 1995
and 2013, with the total number increasing more than two-fold between these
prevalence increased steadily in all five-year age groups aged over 50 years.
Prevalence more than doubled in the 50-54 group, increased by a third in the
55-59 group and by a quarter in the 60-64 group.
were generally in agreement with the UNAIDS estimates. Among men aged 50-54
years, estimated prevalence was approximately 10% lower than that revealed in
the UNAIDS survey, with prevalence 27% lower in the 55-59 group. However, the
investigators acknowledge this latter comparison was not robust because of a
small sample size. For women, household surveys placed prevalence to within 2-10%
of that suggested by the UNAIDS estimate. Four countries had household surveys
for both men and women, and their results had prevalence within 10-15% of that
suggested by UNAIDS for persons aged under 60.
UNAIDS data and
household surveys were in agreement that there had been sharp increases in the
number of older patients living with HIV in recent years.
believe their findings have three important implications: (1) services need to
expand to address the often complex needs of people living with HIV; (2)
more attention needs to be given to HIV prevention for the over 50s; (3) more
needs to be done to collect accurate data about the epidemic in older people
and to understand the impact of HIV on these individuals.