Reaching Older Adults: National HIV/AIDS & Aging Awareness Day

Michelle Scavnicky

What do you know about the risk of HIV infection for older adults? If the answer is “not much,” we can help. The 4th annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD Exit Disclaimer) will take place on September 18, 2011. NHAAAD raises awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS and the importance of HIV testing and prevention education for older Americans.

The NHAAAD campaign theme is “Aging is a part of life; HIV doesn’t have to be.” The campaign focuses on:

  • People living with HIV/AIDS who are aging with the disease, or who are over 50 at the time of their initial diagnosis
  • Baby boomers who need education about HIV prevention strategies
  • The increasing number of grandparents who have become the primary guardians for children who have lost their parent(s) to HIV/AIDS

NHAAAD highlights the increasing need for HIV prevention education for older adults, as well as the need for better data collection and more research about the impact of HIV and aging on this population.

Because HIV is most commonly transmitted through sexual activity, many people tend to assume that older adults have very little risk of HIV infection. In 2007, researchers at the University of Chicago surveyed 3,005 Americans Exit Disclaimer between the ages of 57 and 85 about their sexuality and health. A significant percentage reported that they were sexually active:

  • 73% of those aged 57–64
  • 53% of those aged 65–74
  • 26% of those aged 75–85

One other finding of particular interest to healthcare providers and HIV educators: overall, only 38% of men in the study, and only 22% of women, reported ever having discussed sexual activity with their doctor after age 50.

It is important to keep that information in mind, since, in 2009, people aged 50 and older accounted for 17% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. By 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that nearly 50% of Americans with HIV will be age 50 and older.

NHAAAD is a chance for us to check this trend by promoting the CDC’s HIV Testing Guidelines, which recommend routine, opt-out HIV testing in healthcare settings for individuals aged 13-64. Because we know that many older adults are sexually active, The AIDS Institute Exit Disclaimer also promotes HIV education and testing for adults over age 64 and encourages healthcare providers to talk to their older patients about sexual activity and HIV prevention.

Ways to get involved in National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day:

  • Use the NHAAAD social media guide Exit Disclaimer (PDF 172KB) to promote your efforts
  • #AIDSandAGING Exit Disclaimer is the official hashtag for NHAAAD. Please retweet!
  • Like us on Facebook at NHAAAD: Exit Disclaimer
  • Download NHAAAD tools Exit Disclaimer and share them with your neighbors, colleagues, and friends.
  • Promote HIV testing among older Americans.
  • Provide HIV prevention and education messages and resources that link to care for older Americans living with HIV.
  • Conduct local community awareness and education events in settings where older Americans live or meet (e.g., retirement  homes, assisted living facilities, community centers, and faith communities).

To download NHAAAD-related materials, please visit our website at Exit Disclaimer

To find an HIV testing site near you, visit


  1. Robert Miller says:

    I would hope for something more than promoting testing for HIV infections among the older Americans population. There are cultural barriers when working with Hispanics and with Blacks. Blacks, for example, feel more comfortable being treated by Black clinics and clinicians. There are social penalties for older PWAs to come forward and identify themselves, despite efforts to reverse this. Not only do older PWAs need local support groups, but their physicians need to be better educated in treating them. HIV among seniors needs to be talked about on mainstream television and on the radio, in dramatizations that people can identify with…and not by conservative talking-heads or those who would condemn them for religious reasons.

  2. am very interested as a friend is HIV positive; age is 63 yrs; not is denial but not seeking updated info as age and HIV does not seem to be a relevant factor to their way of thinking: a lack of knowledge does not aid in the prevention of redsidual health issues in aids and the aging: however, I would certainly like to know so as to be informed and to stay informed: for their sake and MY OWN! Thank-you very much.

    janice (white)smith

  3. Mônica Americano Leite says:

    Interessantíssima esta reportagem, pois estou concluíndo minha tese de mestrado no Brasil sobre idosos com depressão e HIV/SIDA, e estes dados são bem-vindos neste momento!


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