HIV Statistics and Targets Exclude Older People – Putting Millions of
People at Risk
By Rachel Albone, Help Age International
June 6, 2011
Five years ago,
the international community working
and AIDS set a target of "universal access to comprehensive
prevention programmes, treatment, care and support".
that community is meeting again, at the UN High Level Meeting, to
review the world's progress in responding to the HIV epidemic and to
agree the way forward.
can a response be effective when the global picture of the epidemic
is skewed - missing out an entire set of people so acutely affected by
of course, talking about older people who are left out of HIV
statistics and targets.
have led to increasing numbers of people aged 50 and over
living with HIV.
has not been recognised.
2001 Declaration of Commitment, signed ten years ago at the
groundbreaking UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS), nor the
UN's 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS makes any reference to
older people living with HIV.
the 2001 Declaration, member states committed that every two
years they would report their progress in responding to the epidemic to
the UN General Assembly, against 25 core indicators.
of these indicators explicitly includes people aged 50 and over,
or requests HIV statistics to be broken down by age.
- on access to testing, higher risk sex and condom use - are
specifically restricted to people aged 15-49.
prevalence data are also limited to the 15-49 year age group.
provided HIV statistics
In 2010, member
states submitted progress reports.
of the 119 reports submitted in English shows that some
countries are submitting HIV statistics on people aged 50 and over,
even though they are not required to do so.
are startling - showing just how at risk older people are of
infection. You can read some of the statistics at the bottom of this
is no official requirement on how to present HIV statistics on
older people, there is no consistency in the way countries do this.
total 57 of the 119 reports present HIV statistics on older people
(or state that statistics are available) or make other references to
older people - reflecting a growing understanding at national level
that this age group needs to be given attention.
UNAIDS' 2010 Global Report on the AIDS epidemic, which is based
on the reports submitted by country governments, does not include any
HIV statistics on people aged 50 and over, or make any other reference
to older people, either as carers or as people living with HIV.
older people be included in HIV statistics?
is older people are hugely affected by HIV - as carers of family
members with HIV and orphaned children, and as people at risk of
older men and women care for sons and daughters who are living with
HIV or for orphaned grandchildren.
for example, an older parent was the main carer for 80% of
adult children who had died as a result of AIDS. [i]
and southern Africa, 40-60% of children orphaned as a result of
AIDS are cared for by their grandparents, usually their
people are ignored in the response, how can the children in their
care be properly fed, clothed and educated? How can they advise young
people about safer sex or protect themselves? How can they receive the
treatment, care and support they need?
of older people in HIV statistics at global level implies there
is no data at all and no recognition by governments of older people's
no attention is paid to older people in the response to HIV,
meaning many are unable to access services and support.
a clear mismatch between what is reported nationally and what is
presented at global level.
crucial, therefore, that older people are recognised at this week's
UN high-level meeting, and that they are included in any subsequent
outcome document and any new commitments and targets, so that every
single country has to include older people in its HIV statistics
collection and programmes.
Committed to caring:
older women and HIV & AIDS in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam,
Chiang Mai, HelpAge International, 2007, p.14
state of the worlds children report: women and children, the double
dividend of gender equality, UNICEF, 2007
are presented by countries, they provide striking evidence of
how older people are at risk from the epidemic:
17% of cumulative cases of AIDS (all cases diagnosed since
the start of the epidemic) have been in people aged 50 and over.
Netherlands, 28% of people living with HIV are aged 50 and over,
and in Sweden and Barbados, 25 per cent.
men aged 50-54 have the highest prevalence after the 35-39
and 40-44 year age groups, at just under 30 per cent (exact figures not
28% of men aged 50-54 have HIV, compared with 20 per cent of
men aged 15-49.
25% of newly reported cases of HIV and AIDS are in people aged
50 and over.
11% of new HIV cases in 2009 were in people aged 50-64 and 4 per
cent in people were aged 65 and over.
have collected HIV statistics on older people against the
three indicators focused on the 15-49 year age group. For example:
the proportion of people tested for HIV who were 50 or over increased
from 5% in 2006 to 7 per cent in 2009.
Africa, the proportion of people aged 50 and over who use a
condom has increased since 2005, although people in this age group are
far less likely to use a condom than younger people.
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