The Minister in charge of the elderly is appealing to the older folks to get tested for HIV.
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, said research has shown that the older adult is less likely than younger persons to get tested, so they may not know that they have HIV as the aches and the pains of normal aging as well as other attendant diseases can mask the signs of HIV/AIDS.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of an HIV seminar for older men, at the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa, Rockley, Christ Church, this morning, Forde said that often doctors do not always think to test older people for HIV and by the time the older person is diagnosed, the virus may be in the late stages and more likely to progress to AIDS.
Forde said that recent information indicated that people aged 50 and older accounted for 17 per cent of the 39 782 new HIV diagnoses in 2016 in the United States. She also said that people aged 50 to 54 accounted for 43 per cent of the new diagnoses among people ages 50 and older. And while many of them were diagnosed with HIV in their younger years, thousands of older people are still being diagnosed as new HIV cases every year.
“The aforementioned statistics indicate that there is a need for more strategies to be developed and implemented when seeking to educate our older adults about HIV, its causes, treatment and impact. The Government of Barbados through its policies and programmes has placed emphasis on health and wellness, while creating an environment where persons living with HIV can access a medical regime to ensure that they can continue to live positively and play their roles in society,” she said.
Forde said she holds the view that education is the key to behavioural change.
“That is why I can stand here today and be proud of the fact that the National Assistance Board in collaboration with the National HIV/AIDS Commission continues to facilitate this annual seminar to not only ensure that the mandate of the various entities is being met but that the older adult can safely engage in sexual activity without compromising their health and that of their partner and to endure the stigma and discrimination that has surrounded HIV and AIDS for 30 years or more,” she said.
The Minister also encouraged the participants to be rid of the taboo that lingers with respect to sex and sex education, and stressed that some of the myths could be dispelled through the sharing of information with peers as well as intergenerational sharing given the access to technology by the younger population and their resultant advanced knowledge base.
Forde said parents and mentors must recommit to the socialization and education of young people.
“This must include sex education and the need to protect themselves against all sexually transmitted infections by using condoms, abstinence or being loyal to one partner. However, as older adults we must have the correct information and model the appropriate behaviour, so that we do not perpetrate the same myths and attitudes which contribute to HIV as well as stigma and discrimination,” she said.