Number Of HIV Cases Among Elderly In Puerto Rico Increasing

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The number of new HIV casesrecorded among people ages 60 and older in Puerto Ricois increasing, the Miami Herald reports. According to the Herald,238 new HIV cases were recorded among people over age 60 during the year endingin September 2007 -- a 25% increase compared with the same time period in 2006.Puerto Rico Health Secretary Rosa Perez Perdomo said that about 4% of all HIVcases in the country occur among the age group. The national average of new HIVcases reported among people ages 65 and older has remained at about 2%annually, according to CDC figures.

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The increase has prompted the San Juan Health Department to create a program,called Golden Force, which aims to increase HIV awareness and prevention, aswell as to encourage testing, among the elderly. According to Milagro Melendez,an HIV prevention counselor, Golden Force plans to focus on reaching people atretirement homes, local fairs and parks. She added that program staff willdistribute condoms and discuss safer-sex practices with the elderly. Localphysicians also face challenges associated with providing care for people livingwith the disease because HIV/AIDS remains a taboo subject, Melendez said. Sheadded that some physicians are confusing the symptoms of HIV/AIDS with old age,which is compounding the problem.

Luis Martinez Suarez -- medical director of the San Juan AIDS clinic, whichadministers Golden Force -- said the reasons for the increase in HIV casesamong the elderly include an increase in the use of drugs, such as Viagra andCialis, and a widely held belief that the disease only affects injection drugusers and men who have sex with men. "We realized a number of [theelderly] were starting to get sick," Martinez Suarez said, adding,"We knew we need to start paying attention to that age group, taking themessage of prevention to seniors."

Greduvel Duran, executive director of the health department's AIDS office, saidthe government is creating several prevention programs, including publicservice announcements and a radio campaign. "Abstinence should be thefirst line of defense in the prevention of HIV," Duran said, adding,"But we realize that adults are sexually active, and we have to recognizethat abstinence works for some groups and not for others" (AnasagastiAkus, Miami Herald, 1/28).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Reportis published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. KaiserFamily Foundation.

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