Research Finds HIV Transmission Remains a Problem Among Older Blacks in Africa

A new study led by Molly Rosenberg, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Public Health at Indiana University, examined HIV transmission among older Black adults in South Africa. HIV/AIDS rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are among the highest in the world. But few studies on HIV/AIDS examine incidence among older adults.

The research examined the sexual behaviors of more than 5,000 adults over the age of 40 in rural South Africa. The study found that 23 percent of the older adults surveyed had HIV and about one third of all people in the research group had never before been tested for HIV. Half of those found to have HIV were previously unaware that they were infected. The research also found that most of these older adults remained sexually active. For example, more than half of Black men over the age of 80 reported that they had sex with at least one partner within the past two years.

Dr. Rosenberg noted that “our study found that older adults are sexually active, and they report sexual risk behaviors – low condom use, casual sex and multiple recent partners – that are consistent with sexual transmission of disease. This marks a huge potential for ongoing HIV transmission in older South Africans, and highlights the need for expanded HIV testing and counseling that can change behavior and help reduce new HIV transmission.”

The study, “Sexual Behaviors and HIV Status: A Population-Based Study Among Older Adults in Rural South Africa,” was published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. It may be accessed here.

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