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Aging With AIDS: San Diegans Living With Virus On The Rise

Evening Edition
Midday Edition

Guests

Patrick Loose, chief, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency’s HIV, STD and Hepatitis Branch

Dr. Terri Lather, HIV specialist, Family Health Centers of San Diego County

Midday Edition airs weekdays at noon on KPBS Radio

Sunday was the 25th World AIDS Day.

There is much to be thankful for in the development of new drugs to keep AIDS and HIV at bay, but what are the trends among those who continue to live with the disease decades after diagnosis?

Partly because of the effectiveness of the drugs, it turns out there is a growing number of people living in San Diego with an AIDS diagnosis who are over 50.

“Advances in medication and treatment have helped individuals with AIDS to live longer, healthier lives,” said Patrick Loose, Chief of San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency’s HIV, STD and Hepatitis Branch.

Loose says about 40% of people living with HIV are now age 50 or older and they may face different challenges than those who are younger.

"We see a number of patients or long-term survivors and as the transition to older and middle-age what we are seeing is even when the HIV infection is under excellent control for interactive viral therapy that they are developing aging related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, certain types of cancers at a higher rate and at an earlier age than the HIV negative counterparts," said Dr. Terri Lather, HIV Specialist with Family Health Care Centers of San Diego.

This is an area that is currently under a lot of research. One theory is that even when HIV is under control, it causes inflammation in the body which can lead to premature aging or accelerated aging.

There's also a growing number of older people who are being freshly diagnosed.

San Diego Health Officials say from 2000-2012 there was a 6% jump in the number of reported HIV positive cases in the 50 and over age group.

"A lot of the outreach and education has to be done to target older individuals, " said Dr. Lather. "From the healthcare standpoint I think providers need to be more comfortable in talking about sex with their older patients."

Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, about 15,000 San Diego County residents have been diagnosed with AIDS, 7,221 are living with the disease and 3,200 don't know they're infected with the virus, according to the HHSA.

Nationwide, the government says that by 2015, more than half of all people living with HIV in the U.S. will be over 50.

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