PlusNews Examines HIV Programs Targeted At Older People In Africa

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PlusNews on Thursday examined HIV programs for people over the age of 50 in Africa. According to PlusNews,one in 14 HIV-positive people worldwide are older than age 50, but fewprograms provide HIV/AIDS services for older people even though theyare considered to be at risk of contracting HIV. Most data on HIVprevalence is collected only for adults ages 15 to 49, according to HelpAge International. UNAIDS last year began presenting estimates on HIV prevalence for all adults older than age 15.


Manyolder people do not know how HIV is transmitted and do not know how toprevent transmission of the virus, even though many people in the agegroup are sexually active, PlusNews reports. Somecultural practices such as polygamy and wife inheritance also increasethe risk of HIV among older people, Sobbie Mulindi, an HIV/AIDSstrategic planner and consultant to the World Health Organization,said. Mulindi added that a lack of HIV-positive role models among olderpeople perpetuates the idea that HIV/AIDS is a "young people's problem."

Somevoluntary counseling and testing centers in Africa also are not easilyaccessible for older people, according to the 2007 Draft Report onKenya's implementation of the African Union Policy and Plan of Actionon Aging. "Older people do not often get relevant and up-to-dateinformation on HIV/AIDS," the report said, adding that a "lack ofadequate information on HIV/AIDS means that older people are not ableto provide suitable care, as well as protect and prevent themselves"from contracting the virus.

Mulindi called on Kenya's National AIDS Control Councilto develop a strategy to address HIV/AIDS among older people. HarrietKongin, head of stakeholder coordination at NACC, said that the agencycurrently does not target older people in its national strategic planbut added that it has decided to add the age group to the plan duringits upcoming review (PlusNews, 11/8).

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