Sex, Seniors, and the HIV/AIDs Epidemic
The fastest-growing AIDS demographics in the nation are heterosexuals 50 and older. The sexual activity of seniors has long been denied and ignored by physicians, social scientist, and government officials. Yet, society owes its elders awareness education for the prevention and testing of HIV in its early stage.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report
the number of AIDS cases among those 50 and older remains relatively small -
400 heterosexual AIDS cases diagnosed nationally in 1996, up from 700 in 1991.
But then we must listen to the rest of the story. Seniors are less likely than
others to get tested for HIV, so observers are concerned the numbers may be
larger and still growing.
Often, seniors who develop AIDS-related symptoms of dementia, pneumonia and
weight loss are not tested for the virus until after death. Physicians and
patients assume these symptoms to be a natural aging process and dismiss the
possibility of HIV.
Women must be empowered to require their partners to use condoms. HIV is naked
to the eye and it does not announce itself on the foreheads of prospective
suitors. Those infected with the virus may be professional, well groomed,
educated, retired, and/or widowed.
The "A Granddaughter Speaks" workshops for education and awareness on the
prevention and testing of HIV, is an informative, interactive forum of role
plays, demonstrations, and informal safe discussions on the new rules of
engagement for seniors who are sexually active. 100 % of attendants report a
better understanding of their risk for the HIV/AIDS virus after workshop.
Gale Madyun, writer and social worker, is enrolled at City University, Renton,
Washington, in the MPA program, is the president of OWL (Older Women's League)
chapters in LA and the Inland Empire. The former ombudsmen in the county of Los
Angeles, created the workshops to deliver information to the underserved
population. Ms. Madyun advocates a paradigm shift in public health care and
policy to address the needs of senior awareness in the transmission of HIV/AIDS
and STDs. She is active in ways and means to expand educational forums to senior
citizen communities, churches, social centers and organizations.
Historically, most health surveys and studies have used men as subjects. The
results, consequently, leave out over half of the population in their
applicability and usefulness.
We are learning that women's bodies are different than men's, process substances
differently, react differently to drugs and medications and are subject to
different diseases and conditions. While there is much more to be discovered in
this area, much good information relevant to women's health is already
Other areas of health are particularly relevant to mid-life and older women,
such as information on breast cancer, menopause, heart disease, osteoporosis and
estrogen-replacement therapy. Information on options, controversies, therapies
and treatments in these areas are included.