HIV infects increasing number of seniors

Updated: 2014-12-01 17:05


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A growing number of the elderly have contracted HIV/AIDS in recent years, according to a new report focused on southwest China's Yunnan province, one of the most seriously hit areas in the country.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Yunnan show the age profile of HIV infection having shifted dramatically. The total number of HIV sufferers aged 50 years or older has risen from 4.4 percent in 2004 to 24.9 percent in the first 9 months of 2014.

By contrast, the ratio of patients aged 20- 29 has dropped sharply from 43.8 percent to 19.9 percent, while the proportion of patients aged between 30-39 has dropped slightly from 39.8 percent to 28.6 percent over the same period.

The reason more seniors are being infected by HIV/AIDS is often ascribed to the loneliness that some face after their kids have left home or due to the loss of a spouse, forcing many towards commercial sexual activities to sate their needs. However, older generations often lack disease prevention awareness or experience.

According to a report on the HIV situation in Yunnan, of the 378 seniors questioned, 66.7 percent never use condoms, while the location for their promiscuous activities normally include dirty rental houses, small hotels and hair salons.

"A friend took me to a hair salon. The environment was terrible. Stupidly, I made love with a prostitute, and returned several times afterwards," a senior named Wang explained, having contracted HIV in 2012.

Seniors are on average less likely to seek online health guidance and disease prevention information compared to younger generations, adding to the high rates of infection. They are also unwilling to use consultation services because they do not want their families to know they are infected, which may result in the infection of a spouse.

Homosexual men are said to be more likely to get infected because of regular sexual contact and anonymity. In addition, few are willing to reveal their sexual orientation, while many have multiple partners.

The government should control the spread of HIV/AIDS by expanding the coverage of health education, said Jia Manhong, head of the Yunnan AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease Control and Prevention Center.

People should improve self-awareness in disease control, promote the use of condoms and have regular HIV tests, alongside anti-viral treatment if necessary, it was added.