National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day – September 18, 2011

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day:

A Perspective from the National Institutes of Health

When Americans think about HIV, the face they imagine isn’t that of a person who has lived over half a century and beyond. Yet, in 2009, people aged 50 and older accounted for 17% of new HIV diagnoses in 40 states with long-term confidential name-based reporting. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS in the United States.

Today, more than ever, HIV prevention and treatment are important issues to older Americans. September 18, 2011 marks the 4th annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day . This special day provides us all with the opportunity to focus on the many challenges related to HIV prevention, testing, and treatment facing our aging population.

Aging is a part of life; HIV doesn’t have to be,” the theme for this year’s National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, reminds us that there is more we can do to make older Americans aware of HIV prevention and testing.

Medicare now covers HIV screening for people with Medicare of any age who ask for the test. Aging services providers and HIV care providers must work together to educate older Americans about the testing and prevention of HIV as well as to ensure that the special needs of the older men and women living with HIV can be effectively addressed in a collaborative fashion. The Administration on Aging has a webpage dedicated to Older Adults and HIV; next month we will be releasing an HIV and aging educational toolkit and video.

Please join the Administration on Aging, and our network of community-based aging services providers, in recognizing National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. Throughout the year, help spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of HIV prevention, testing and treatment for older adults. A few suggestions include: organize a public forum or town hall meeting to discuss the impact of HIV/AIDS in the senior community; ask your community leaders to issue a proclamation recognizing the Awareness Day; request radio stations to air public service announcements; and encourage leaders in the community to participate in local, regional, or national events on or around NHAAAD.

Written by Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary, HHS Administration on Aging.

On September 18, 2011, we mark the fourth observance of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day. The remarkable success of antiretroviral therapies in prolonging the lives of HIV-infected individuals who have access to and can tolerate these drugs has led to many more HIV-infected people living into middle and old age. In 2008, an estimated 29 percent of HIV-infected adults in the U.S. were at least 50 years of age, and in 2009, individuals in that age group accounted for 17% of all new HIV diagnoses. Both of these percentages have been increasing in recent years. As the benefits of improved therapies for HIV continue to accrue, research into the complex relationship between aging and HIV becomes increasingly critical.

A major goal of HIV and aging research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is to achieve greater understanding of how premature aging of the immune system may be occurring in people living with HIV, and clarifying the fundamental mechanisms of inflammation. Understanding the complex interaction between HIV and aging will require considerable effort on multiple fronts. The NIH Institutes and Centers support a broad range of research on HIV and aging. For example, this past April, three NIH Institutes (National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) announced that they will fund research into the effects of HIV on the brain in aging populations taking antiretroviral therapy. Within the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) programs, research on HIV and aging is ongoing in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS)and the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) Exit Disclaimer. These long term follow-up studies of HIV infected women (WIHS) and men (MACS) have defined some of the important differences in HIV risk, pathogenesis and treatment response between the sexes. The International Epidemiologic Database to Evaluate AIDS (IeDEA) Exit Disclaimer provides domestic and international information about the epidemic including pathogenesis differences between HIV infected adults who are growing older and newly infected older individuals. In addition, studies conducted by the Centers for AIDS Research (CFAR), AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) Exit Disclaimer, and the International Network for Strategic Initiatives in Global HIV Trials (INSIGHT) Exit Disclaimer are pursuing HIV and aging-related scientific questions.

The NIH Office of AIDS Research, which has responsibility for overall planning and coordination of NIH AIDS research, has made AIDS and aging research a priority in the annual Trans-NIH Plan for HIV-Related Research, and has supported a number of initiatives to catalyze this area of science. In close collaboration with a number of NIH Institutes with research portfolios in HIV/AIDS, OAR has been exploring new ways to sponsor further research on HIV and aging. OAR has established a Working Group on HIV and Aging comprised of experts in both HIV/AIDS and geriatrics, as well as representatives from the HIV affected community to identify new scientific opportunities and priorities in this field of research.

While the NIH continues to expand research on HIV and aging, multiple other Federal agencies, foundations, and advocacy groups are also making critical contributions in this important area, as well as directly supporting the needs of older individuals living with HIV. Only by addressing these needs can we truly achieve the vision of the President’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy:

By Paolo Miotti, M.D., Office of AIDS Research, NIH (Cross-posted from The White House Office of National AIDS Policy Blog)

Co-authored by Scott Proestel, M.D., Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination. “


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