NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — No one wants to talk to their parents, let alone their grandparents, about sex.
But you might want to have “the talk” once you’ve heard about the “Graying of HIV.”
It’s a reference to the number of people over 50 now living with and potentially spreading the virus. The good news is people with HIV are living longer.
The bad news is about one in every six people diagnosed last year in Virginia was age 50 or older. It’s creating new challenges for doctors, and the dating scene for seniors.
Bob Bailey, 57, has been living with HIV for more than 12 years.
“I grew up in the Rock Hudson, Freddie Mercury days, my immediate thought was “I’m going to die.” he told WAVY.com.
But many patients are now living into their 80s and 90s. Medicine has come a long way, mindsets not as much, Bailey said.
“Being an older person, I tend to be around older people, and you know there’s still that stigma from back at the early days.”
It’s evident in an article recently published by Eastern Virginia Medical School, in which a widow named Amanda describes how she waited a respectful amount of time after her husband of 34 years passed away before she began to date.
She slept with just one man and got HIV.
At the Eastern Virginia Medical School HIV/AIDS Resource Center, Dr. Tanya Kearney explained, “Probably women who have reached menopause figure, I’m not going to get pregnant, not realizing that if they have a sexual encounter with someone that’s positive they can become positive.”
Health experts say the truth is, HIV is just as easy to get at 71 as it is at 17.
Nearly 100 people over the age of 50 were diagnosed in Virginia last year.
Whether you’re a man or woman, gay or straight, Kearney says it’s time to have “the talk” about safer sex.
“Step outside the box and have those conversations with parents, cause there’s lot of elderly single parents and grandparents.”
Dr. Kearney also advises physicians to talk to older patients about HIV and STD testing — and for parents to talk to children starting in middle school.
“At least starting those conversations about sex and risky behaviors and abstinence and self esteem.”
While you can live with HIV, it is expensive. Bailey takes just one pill a day to manage the virus, but says that one pill can cost up to $25,000 a month.
Older patients must also consider interactions with other medications used to treat age-related conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
They must also consider other diseases, including heart and lung diseases, certain cancers and neurocognitive disorders, which are more common in those with longstanding HIV.
Bailey and his partner take lots of precautions, and after seven years together, his partner is still HIV negative. They plan to live a long life together.
Reprinted with permission from: