(Blogmensgo, gay blog of September 30, 2017) Between 2004 and 2015, the number of new diagnoses of advanced-stage HIV has increased significantly. This is the result of a study carried out for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) by The Lancet HIV. Although seniors (defined as people at the age of 50 years or older) only account for about one sixth of all new HIV diagnoses, the disease typically is in a more advanced stage at the time of diagnosis, compared to the age group of 15 to 49.
54,102 seniors with new HIV diagnoses…
Over a period of 12 years (2004 to 2015), the study directed by researchers Lara Tavoschi, Joana Gomes Dias and Anastasia Pharris investigated new HIV diagnoses in 31 European countries. 54,102 seniors (homo- and heterosexual) received a positive HIV test result in this period. The average percentage of newly diagnosed people was 2.1% (based on 100,000 people) for the 31 countries as a whole. However, it was 2.2% in the senior age group, 5.5% in the gay population and even 7.4% in drug addicts using needles.
The percentage of new HIV diagnoses increased strongly in 16 countries (mostly in Central and Eastern Europe) while it remained on the same level or even decreased in 15 other countries.
Big regional differences
In 2015, the four countries with the highest increase of newly diagnosed seniors were Estonia (7.50 out of 100,000 seniors), Latvia (7.17), Malta (7.15) and Portugal (6).
With some variations between the beginning and the end of the study period (2004 and 2015), the annual increase rate of newly HIV+ diagnosed seniors around 3.6% in the UK, 3.9% in Belgium, 5.4% in Ireland and 3.33% in Germany.
Late diagnoses are frequent
Unfortunately, in many cases, HIV is diagnosed rather late. A diagnosis is called late when a patient only has about 350 CD4 cells per microliter of blood. An HIV infection in a patient is considered in an advanced state when there are less than 200 CD4 cells per microliter.
In the group of seniors, no less than 39% are late diagnoses, and about three quarters of those are in an advanced state, while in the age group of 15 to 49, only 26% are late diagnoses of which only about half are in an advanced state. In seniors, the infection is mostly passed via heterosexual contacts while in younger age groups, it is mostly passed via men who have sex with men (MSM).
New ways of prevention
The three study authors conclude that prevention and testing has to be better adapted to seniors, which will require innovative approaches and new practices.