HIV and AIDS policy

Everyone has the right to access the HIV and AIDS information and the services they need. This includes older men and women.

HIV and AIDS affects older people in a number of ways:

  • A large and growing number of older people are living with HIV. But they rarely receive adequate prevention, treatment, care and support.
  • Older people around the world support and care for loved ones living with HIV and children orphaned as a result of AIDS. This has a huge impact on their economic, health and emotional wellbeing.
  • It is often assumed that older people are no longer sexually active and therefore not at risk of HIV. Older people are at risk of infection through the same routes as anyone else but are rarely included in HIV and AIDS awareness education.

The difference we're determined to make in the response to HIV and AIDS

Older people make a huge contribution to the response to HIV and AIDS, particularly in their role as caregivers. We are determined to support them through advocating for:

  • Age-sensitive HIV prevention messages, developed with and provided by older people themselves.
  • Access to HIV testing and treatment for older people and trained health workers that understand their specific needs.
  • Increased recognition of vital contribution older carers are making, and support as they carry out this vital role. For example, through income security, access to healthcare and protection of inheritance rights.
  • Global HIV and AIDS indicators that include older people, and national surveys and financial impact monitoring to be extended byond the age of 49.
  • Recognition from UNAIDS that the AIDS epidemic is ageing and that research to understand the interaction between ageing and HIV is needed.

Examples of our impact so far:

  • WHO Global Health Sector Strategy on HIV and AIDS 2011-15 included older people as a key population group the HIV response. It also recognised the need for attention to addressing the needs of older people living with HIV and for non communicable disease programmes to include conditions associated with ageing.
  • UNAIDS included older people in their 2009 to 2011 Outcome Framework. The document highlighted care and support as a fundamental element of social protection to be promoted and taken forward in UNAIDS work.
  • The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Youth Minimum Package Document and Business Plan now includes references to older people. Specifically, it states that social protection measures should translate into increased resources for older carers.
  • In Mozambique and Tanzania, governments have committed to revising data collection on HIV and AIDS infection, treatment and care to include people over 49 years. This recognises the vital role older men and women play as carers, and acknowledges the fact that people over 50 have sex too.

HIV and AIDS Strategy for Older People outlines the main points of why older people affected by HIV and AIDS have a right to be included in HIV strategies either as patients or as carers of someone living with HIV. The strategy calls for the provision of more HIV prevention, caregiving knowledge to older carers and ensured access to health care services.

HIV and AIDS Prevention Strategy for Older People asks "Why do we need HIV and AIDS prevention strategies for older people?" This short publication  outlines 14 points why we need them, including reasons such as older people facing discrimination in HIV services because of wrongly held assumptions about their sexuality including the belief that HIV only affects younger people.

HIV and AIDS and other crises that disproportionately kill working-age adults also impact older people. At a time in their lives when many older people might expect to be supported and cared for by their children, a growing number are instead caring for younger adults living with HIV, and for the orphans and vulnerable children they leave behind. HIV and AIDS has led to an increase in "skipped generation" households - households made up of the old and the young. However, relatively little is known about the livelihoods and coping strategies of such households.

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