World Aids Day 2017

For World Aids Day, we are sharing a post from HelpAge's partner organization, GRAVIS, that highlights why factoring aging into the development of HIV/AIDS programming is so critical. In India, GRAVIS and HelpAge reach older people in rural, impoverished areas with education, training, and counseling.

prakash By Dr. Prakash Tyagi, Executive Director, GRAVIS

In India, the Challenges of HIV and Aging Increasingly Converge

December 1, 2017

older people in health discussion

More than thirty years into the AIDS pandemic, people infected with HIV can now live much longer due to Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) drugs, a positive development that has made AIDS a chronic and manageable condition. In fact, a study from the Lancel HIV journal suggests people living with HIV who receive ART treatment now have a near normal life expectancy.

This achievement in human health has one important implication. As people with HIV live longer, more and more of them will be of older age.

As this demographic shift is occurring, it's more important than ever to increase public awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS. Contrary to popular belief, old age is not a safety net against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The threats and implications of HIV for older people are just as serious as they are for younger age groups.

In India, incorporating population aging into HIV/AIDS interventions is critical. Although the national prevalence rate of AIDS is relatively low, 0.27 in 2013 according to the National AIDS Control (NACO) of India, there are still, in absolute terms, many people living with HIV in the country, about 2.39 million.
India also has one of the largest populations of older people in the world. Although little data is available on the numbers of older people living with HIV, India's relatively broad access to ART, which increases life expectancy significantly, and a decrease in the country's incidence of new HIV infections, indicate that a sizable proportion of those with HIV will be older.

Older people, however, especially those who are poor and living in rural areas, are routinely neglected and forgotten in HIV prevention and management efforts.

GRAVIS, in partnership with HelpAge, runs a comprehensive age-friendly healthcare program in India to provide support for people with HIV and AIDS. In the Thar Desert region and other states of India, GRAVIS provides specialized outreach sessions, education and counselling on HIV transmission and prevention to people aged 50 and above. Special focus is given to reaching older women, who may be less informed and more vulnerable. GRAVIS also facilitates inter-generational dialogue to reduce stigma associated with HIV.

To date, GRAVIS has reached over 100,000 older people through its HIV/AIDS programming. But many more will need health education and care in the coming decades. Until the implications of aging in the battle against HIV/AIDS are fully recognized, we will always be one step behind. This World AIDS Day, let's keep in mind that to prevent, manage, and ultimately end HIV/AIDS, we must support those who are living with these conditions, many of whom will increasingly be of older age.