HIV on rise among elderly

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2015-3-5 23:48:05

Deputy urges free condoms, testing for seniors

In the wake of increasing numbers of seniors contracting HIV/AIDS, a national lawmaker proposed on Thursday establishing a national intervention system in communities and distributing condoms to elderly people for free.

With the consent of the elderly, medical organizations should provide free HIV/AIDS testing and condoms during regular health checks, Tang Zuxuan, a deputy of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) and director of the Dengzhou Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Henan Province, told the Global Times.

Tang helped direct an HIV/AIDS survey in Yunnan Province last year, the results of which demonstrated that the percentage of HIV/AIDS carriers aged 50 or above had soared from 4.4 percent in 2004 to 24.9 percent in 2014.

"Due to the loss of a spouse or unsatisfying marital sex, some elderly people turn to extramarital relations or paid sex from prostitutes," said Tang, adding that most of them go to cheap bath centers or hair salons.

Among the 378 senior HIV/AIDS carriers surveyed in Yunnan last year, 90 percent of them were found to have contracted the virus through sexual intercourse, and 66.7 percent had unprotected paid sex, the People's Daily reported.

Many elderly people know little about HIV/AIDS prevention, and after contracting the virus, they are reluctant to talk to their family members or consult doctors. Thus, the chance of them having complications after infection is very high, said Tang.

Among the over 10,000 newly identified HIV/AIDS cases in Chengdu, Sichuan Province in 2014, 31 percent were in people aged 50 or above, the Chengdu-based West China City Daily reported in December.

Xiao Qiang (pseudonym), 30, an HIV carrier and also head of an NGO dedicated to supporting HIV/AIDS patients in Sichuan, told the Global Times that the organization has visited about 150 people with HIV/AIDS aged 50 or above since 2009. Most of them are male.

The majority of those elderly carriers are isolated, as they do not know how to use the Internet and are unable to participate in outdoor activities due to poor health, Xiao Qiang said.

"Children of some elderly carriers even don't allow them to go to lectures on AIDS prevention fearing that they might be spotted and bring humiliation to the family," he said.

Besides clinics, communities should also provide assistance with HIV/AIDS prevention to elderly residents, Tang said.

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