HIV and AIDS policy

Everyone has the right to access the HIV and AIDS information and the services they need.

This includes older men and women.

72-year-old Susana from Mozambique is both a traditional birth attendant and HIV counsellor in her community. 72-year-old Susana from Mozambique is both a traditional birth attendant and HIV counsellor in her community. (c) Ellie Coleman/HelpAge International

HIV affects older people in a number of ways:

  • HIV is ageing. Increased access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) means people can now live into older age with HIV. People are also newly infected in older age. This is leading to a large and growing number of older people living with HIV. Yet services are rarely targeted towards them.
  • Older people around the world support and care for loved ones living with HIV and children orphaned as a result of AIDS. This has a huge impact on their economic, health and emotional wellbeing.
  • It is often assumed that older people are no longer sexually active and therefore not at risk of HIV. Older people are at risk through the same routes as anyone else, and are often less likely to practice safer sex than younger people. Despite this, they are rarely included in HIV education.

What we want

We are determined to support older people living with and affected by HIV through advocating for:

  • Recognition that the epidemic is ageing.
  • Research to understand the interaction between ageing and HIV, particularly on older people's health and treatment adherence.
  • Age-sensitive HIV prevention messages, developed with and provided by older people themselves.
  • Access to HIV counselling, testing and treatment for older people and trained health workers that understand their needs.
  • Recognition and support for older carers.
  •  Global HIV indicators that are inclusive of people of all ages, and national surveys and epidemic monitoring extended beyond the age of 49.

Our impact

Following our policy influencing work:

  • UNAIDS published "HIV and Aging" in 2013, publishing the first estimates of the number of people aged 50 and over living with HIV globally and in each region of the world. The 2014 UNAIDS "Gap Report" recognised people aged 50 and over as a population group being left behind.
  • The 2014 WHO Global Update on the Health Sector Response to HIV highlighted the need for HIV prevention and other services to respond to older people's needs, and discussed issues older people face in relation to treatment.
  • The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Youth Minimum Package Document and Business Plan states that social protection measures should translate into increased resources for older carers.
  • The HIV and AIDS Policy in Tanzania and Strategic Plan for Intensifying Multi-Sectoral HIV and AIDS Response in Ethiopia both include recognition of the impact of the epidemic on older people.
  • Kenya has extended its 2007 and 2012 AIDS Indicator Surveys to include people up to 64. The surveys provide data on HIV prevalence, with the change from 2007 to 2012 demonstrating the increasing number of older people living with HIV.
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Striking facts

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, 13% of all people living with HIV are now aged 50 or over.

Source: Negin J and Cumming RG 2010 HIV infection in older adults in sub-Saharan Africa: extrapolating prevalence from existing data: Bulletin WHO, 2010; 88;847-853

  • It is estimated that over 50% of people living with HIV in the United States will be aged 50 and over by 2015.

Source: Effros RB, Fletcher CV, Gebo K, et al.: Aging and infectious diseases: workshop on HIV infection and aging: what is known and future research directions. Clin Infect Dis 2008, 47:542-553

  • In some countries in East and Southern Africa, 40-60% of children affected by AIDS are cared for by older people.

Source: UNICEF The State of the World’s Children (2007)

  • In Cambodia, older parents are the main carers in 80% of cases where an adult child had died of AIDS.

Source: Population Council, Survey of the Elderly in Cambodia (2004)

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