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Florida Health Recognizes National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

By Gretchen Smith

September 14, 2018

BUNNELL, FL-September 18 is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, an annual event to spotlight the challenges an aging population faces regarding HIV prevention, testing, care and treatment.

According to the Center for Disease Control, older Americans are more likely than younger people to have late stage HIV infection at the time of diagnosis, which means they often start treatment late and could experience more immune-system damage. They often are diagnosed at a later age because they do not consider themselves at risk, and their health care providers may not always test them for HIV. However, because many aging adults are sexually active, people aged 50 and over account for an estimated 45 percent of Americans living with diagnosed HIV. 

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day promotes the need for prevention, research and data targeting our aging population, medical understanding of the aging process and its impact on HIV/AIDS. According to Robert Snyder, health officer, the Florida Department of Health in Flagler offers free and confidential HIV testing for all ages, as well as a team-based approach of coordinated care under the direction of Medical Director Dr. Stephen Bickel. The local program continues to grow with nearly 100 participants and is demonstrating clinical success in reducing patient’s viral loads to undetectable levels.

“We are committed to reducing the prevalence of HIV in our community and helping those with the infection lead healthier lives at every age,” said Snyder. “In addition to screening and case management, we encourage high-risk individuals to get tested and offer preventative treatment.

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day gives us an opportunity to raise awareness about high-risk behaviors, knowing one’s status and getting and/or staying in treatment.”

Nationally, nearly one-fourth of persons who received an HIV diagnosis in 2017 were older adults (age 50 and older), a 15 percent increase from 2013. This increase reflects the changing picture of the HIV epidemic over time. Of those, 71 percent were male; 64 percent were aged 50-59; 33 percent were white, 40 percent were black and 25 percent were Hispanic. 

In Florida, 52 percent of the 116,944 persons living with an HIV diagnosis in 2017 were over age 50. Fortunately, this demographic reports better HIV care patterns than the general population that were HIV positive, with 70 percent retained in care and 65 percent with suppressed viral loads.

To learn more about HIV/AIDS and/or its prevalence in older adults, visit the following links.

http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/aids/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/age/olderamericans/index.html

http://www.apa.org/pi/aids/resources/aging-awareness.aspx

For more information about the HIV program in Flagler County, contact Mary Lachendro at 386-437-7350 ext. 7091. You can locate HIV counseling, testing and referral sites by visiting www.KnowYourHIVStatus.com or texting ‘FLHIV’ to 898211.

For more information, call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS or 1-800-352-2437; En Español, 1-800-545-SIDA; In Creole, 1-800-AIDS-101. To chat with a live counselor at the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline, visit www.211bigbend.org/flhivaidshotline

About the Florida Department of Health

The Department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @HealthyFla. For more information about the Florida Department of Health please visit www.FloridaHealth.gov.

For information about the Florida Department of Health in Flagler, go to flagler.floridahealth.gov, call 386-437-7350, or visit 301 Dr. Carter Blvd. in Bunnell.