PITTSBURGH, Aug. 7 Few older women were interested in being tested for the virus that causes AIDS despite having significant risk factors for lifetime exposure, according to a study published in the July/August edition of the Journal of Womens Health. The risk is especially great among African-American women, who represent 73 percent of new HIV cases in women over age 50.
Older people largely have been overlooked in HIV prevention and testing programs, and consistently have lower HIV testing rates as compared with younger adults, said Aletha Akers, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the studys lead author. Those who are tested tend to do so late in their disease, when they are more likely to have overt symptoms such as opportunistic infections. Often, they progress more rapidly to AIDS and die within a year of HIV diagnosis, which leaves little opportunity for treatment or secondary prevention for their partners.
For this investigation, Dr. Akers and her colleagues analyzed data collected from 514 women ranging in age from 50 to 95. The women visited a general internal medicine clinic at a large, inner-city hospital in Atlanta over a period of 11 months in 2001 and 2002. To evaluate attitudes concerning lifetime HIV infection risk and interest in HIV testing, trained research assistants administered a 68-item questionnaire in a private room over the course of a single, face-to-face interview with study participants, most of whom said they were not currently sexually active.
More than 60 percent of the participants had never been tested for HIV, although more than half of them could be described as moderate- to high-risk for lifetime exposure to the virus based on sexual history and other factors. Only 115, or 22 percent of participants, said they would be interested in HIV testing. Their most often cited reasons were curiosity a
Contact: Michele D. Baum
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences