HIV rates climbing among over-50s in UK and Europe, researchers warn

HIV rates are climbing in the over-50s in the UK and across Europe, while the rate of new infections among younger people is dropping, according to new research which warns that the epidemic may be taking a new direction.

The study, from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Sweden, says that older people are most likely to be infected through heterosexual sex. They are also likely to have more advanced disease – which will be harder to treat and could be life-threatening – when it is finally picked up.

The study’s authors suggest that the over-50s may be either complacent or ignorant of the risks of HIV, which has dropped out of the headlines since it became a treatable disease. Their doctors also tend to assume that older people are not running risks through unsafe sex.

“Our findings suggest a new direction in which the HIV epidemic is evolving,” said lead author Dr Lara Tavoschi. “This potentially is a result of older peoples’ low awareness of HIV and how it is transmitted, leading to misconceptions and low perception of their own risk.

“This perception of older people not being at risk is shared by some healthcare providers, and HIV-related services focus more on younger people. Our study shows the need to ensure all ages are appropriately targeted by sexual health services.”

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