HIV infection rates rising among middle-Aged, older black women
In the United States, black women make up 60 percent of all new infections among women, most acquiring the disease through heterosexual contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
And while HIV education and awareness campaigns focus on black women ages 18 to 34, women in their 40s and beyond are not always getting the message of safer sex and testing.
Between 1988 and 2001, the rate of HIV infection in women ages 50 to 59 rose by 56 percent. In women 60 to 65, HIV doubled by 53 percent, and in women over 65, the rates tripled. Currently, women over age 50 make up 10 percent of women living with HIV.
There are many reasons that the rates among older women continue to rise. Many black women who are 40 and older do not see themselves at risk and don’t take precautions like using condoms. In addition, the older woman’s physiology may put her at increased risk. Menopausal and postmenopausal women often experience vaginal-wall thinning and dryness, which could cause small tears and create more opportunities for HIV to permeate the vagina and enter the system.
Advocates say that creating more effective education and awareness for older black women will help, as will building a safety net for the growing number of women who have to figure out what to do after they hear “You have HIV/AIDS.”
In addition to using protection, testing is key for all women. Sexually active women should be tested for HIV at least once a year. An estimated 20 percent of the 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS do not know that they have the disease. Treatment has proved to be lifesaving and can prevent the transmission of the virus to others.