PlusNews on Thursday examined HIV programs for people over the age of 50 in Africa. According to PlusNews, one in 14 HIV-positive people worldwide are older than age 50, but few programs provide HIV/AIDS services for older people even though they are considered to be at risk of contracting HIV. Most data on HIV prevalence is collected only for adults ages 15 to 49, according to HelpAge International. UNAIDS last year began presenting estimates on HIV prevalence for all adults older than age 15.

Many older people do not know how HIV is transmitted and do not know how to prevent transmission of the virus, even though many people in the age group are sexually active, PlusNews reports. Some cultural practices such as polygamy and wife inheritance also increase the risk of HIV among older people, Sobbie Mulindi, an HIV/AIDS strategic planner and consultant to the World Health Organization, said. Mulindi added that a lack of HIV-positive role models among older people perpetuates the idea that HIV/AIDS is a "young people's problem."

Some voluntary counseling and testing centers in Africa also are not easily accessible for older people, according to the 2007 Draft Report on Kenya's implementation of the African Union Policy and Plan of Action on Aging. "Older people do not often get relevant and up-to-date information on HIV/AIDS," the report said, adding that a "lack of adequate information on HIV/AIDS means that older people are not able to provide suitable care, as well as protect and prevent themselves" from contracting the virus.

Mulindi called on Kenya's National AIDS Control Council to develop a strategy to address HIV/AIDS among older people. Harriet Kongin, head of stakeholder coordination at NACC, said that the agency currently does not target older people in its national strategic plan but added that it has decided to add the age group to the plan during its upcoming review (PlusNews, 11/8).

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