HIV/AIDS in older adults
HIV/AIDS in older adults
Many older adults are faced with such diseases and disorders as hypertension, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and HIV/ AIDS (Burbank, 2008). Of importance therefore is existence of health promotion programs so as to assist in managing the challenge. An example of such a program is the National Council on Aging (Burbank, 2008). This council helps CBO’s in development and implementation of health promotion programs in the community. This paper focuses on those programs that deal with HIV/AIDS amongst the adult population (Burbank, 2008).
The above programs offer wellness programs for older people living with HIV/AIDS. Their main focus is to ensure that the elderly have full access medical coverage especially to such drugs as Antiretroviral drugs (Minus, 2006). Evidence has shown that many of the older adults do not have full access to such medical coverage (Minus, 2006). Apart from just full coverage, the programs ensure that such coverage is of high quality. That the older adults receive medical attention of a high quality and thus improve their wellness. Where necessary, they ensure that delivery of such medical requirements as drugs are delivered to the elderly at their convenient places, more often their homes. This is because some of the elderly are, due to their advancing ages immobile or less mobile (Emlet, 2004).
Furthermore, these programs avail preventive measures such as HIV testing so as to reduce spread and easily manage the spread of the disease. Finally, day care programs are availed to the old suffering from HIV/AIDS. This is especially in cases where the old are less mobile due to their age. These health programs avail such needs as drugs at their homes and hire caretakers so as to help them with their daily chores such as cooking, bathing and washing. This will in turn help to reduce the strain of the older people when doing the jobs and thus better their lives (Minus, 2006).
HIV/AIDS amongst the older population has greatly affected them. Of great concern is that majority of the older adults are being depended upon by their children as caregivers (Emlet, 2004). This will mean that if they are affected by this disease, it will be very difficult to protect themselves while at the same time they are looked upon by their children. Depression as well sets in to older people suffering from HIV/AIDS. This is because more often, they may not be having strong family or friends’ network and are therefore lonely (Emlet, 2004). Furthermore, they may be trying to cope with such diseases associated with age such as heart problems, diabetes and blood pressure. This tends to make them more depressed. With the disease therefore, they suffer from double stigma; one from the old age itself and due to the HIV/AIDS disease (Minus, 2004).
HIV/AIDS amongst the older population possess a major health risk to them. According to Emlet (2004) people suffering from HIV/AIDS do not die from the disease itself but from other diseases that affect them because of the weakened immune system. Older adults are faced with many age related diseases such as blood pressure and diabetes. Therefore, older adults who are suffering from the disease tend to die easily because of prevalence to the age related diseases. This will in turn reduce their lifespans (Emlet, 2004).
HIV/AIDS affect the old people economically. Due to the declining status of their heaths and their caretaking roles, their ability to generate income is reduced. This in turn leads to poverty and a general decline in the standards of living. They also suffer from stigma from some members of the community members especially due to fears of casual disease transmission (Burbank, 2009).
In the United States of America today, about 1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS and this number keeps on growing yearly (Stine, 2008). About 31% of these people are over 50 years (Stine, 2008). Research projections indicate that by the end of 2015, close to 50% of those with HIV/AIDS in United States will be aged 50 years or more (Stine, 2008). This is s a disturbing trend since it will mean more will have to be done by health programs to assist them. Of the total new infections in the country, nearly 17% of all new cases are from those people who are aged 50 years and above (Nicolas, 2008). This indicates that the spread of the disease amongst the older people is disturbingly high. Of the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS over the age of 50 years, African-American population rates is twelve times higher and five times higher amongst the Latinos than among the white population (Nicolas, 2008).
The risk factors the older adults is nearly same as that of the younger people. Unprotected sex still accounts for the highest factor in new HIV/ AIDS infection amongst the older people. This is due to the fact that about 74.5% of adults aged 57 to 63 are sexually active according to Stine (2008). A further 53% are active aged 63-74 and 25% of those aged above 75 are sexually active (Stine, 2008). However, a small number of these people have been discussing their sex life with their physicians since attaining 50 years (Burbank, 2008). Only a small percentage of these adults use a condom during sexual intercourse. Other risk factors common amongst the older people include drug abuse and lack of enough awareness about the disease and its spread (Burbank, 2008).
Older people living with HIV/AIDS require special nutritional needs as observed by Nicolas (2008). This is because the disease is characterized with low immune levels, loss of body weight and the effects caused by use of anti-retroviral drugs. Staple foods such as cereals must be taken by the above group. This may include maize, rice, millet and wheat. They aid in supply of energy, protein and some traces of vitamins. Leguminous foods such as beans, peas and groundnuts are necessary because they supply the body with the necessary amounts of protein for development and repair of the body and building of muscles. This is to make the old living with HIV/AIDS strong. Dietary fiber foods should be taken to reduce cases of constipation and thus promote bowel function (Nicolas, 2008).
Fruits such as mangoes, oranges and passion fruits should be regularly taken. This is because they are a rich source of vitamins. Vitamins help in fighting infection since people with HIV/AIDS often have low immune systems and thus these vitamins help to boost the immune levels. Vegetables such as pumpkin leaves, spinach, indigenous vegetables and green papers too provide minerals and vitamins and they should be taken by the old with HIV/AIDS so as to further boost their hormone levels (Nicolas, 2008).
Sources of fats and oils and sugar have to be taken too, albeit is small quantities. They include margarine, cooking oil, fish, honey jam and biscuits. Since people with HIV suffer from weight loss, these sources are a rich energy source and thus help in weight gaining. The sugars stimulate the appetite by adding some flavor to food. Finally, these people should take foods rich in water and fluids in general. These may include water, soups and drinking water. This helps in keeping the body always hydrated. At least two and half liters of water should be taken daily (Nicolas, 2008).
Emlet (2004) suggested that moderate, regular physical exercises may have some benefits for people living with HIV/AIDS. This is because they help in fighting the side effects of the disease and the effects due to HIV medications. Some benefits of exercise include lowering of cholesterol levels in the body, stress reduction, muscle strength and mass improvement. Furthermore, exercise improves the energy levels of the patient and increases the bone strength. This will in turn make the patient stronger. Also, exercise improves appetite and sleep (Emlet, 2004).
However, the patient should take caution not to overdo the exercise since it might cause dehydration, loss of body mass and injuries. It is therefore important for the old people living with HIV/AIDS to always consult their doctors before enrolling on physical exercise, especially for those with heart related disease (Emlet, 2004).
In conclusion, the older people living with HIV/AIDS in the society is high, and keeps on increasing. This research found out that despite the efforts done by health programs to help the old living with HIV/AIDS, much has not been done in terms of including the elderly in the national and international HIV/AIDS health agenda. Health programs for the elderly therefore ought to be equipped well enough to deal with the issues of the old living with the disease. The society as a whole has got a big role in ensuring that these people are taken good care of. Effective policies and programs for the old need to be developed to take care of their needs. They should not be stigmatized based on the problems they are facing. The government should partner with local health programs for the old especially by financial support so as to ensure that this group gets all what they require. In general, the old people in the society are for all of us. We should take good care of them, especially those with HIV/AIDS disease.
Burbank, P. (2008). Vulnerable older adults’ health care needs and interventions. New York, NY: Springer Pub.
Emlet, C. (2004). HIV/AIDS and older adults challenges for individuals, families, and communities. New York, NY: Springer Pub.
Minus, E. (2006). HIV/AIDS in the elderly population: A healthcare perspective.
Nicolas, A. (2008). Growing up and growing old: Trajectories of times and lives.
Stine, G. (2009). AIDS update 2008: An annual overview of acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.