WASHINGTON — By the end of the decade, the government estimates, more than half of Americans living with HIV will be over 50. Even in developing countries, more people with the AIDS virus are surviving to middle age and beyond.
That’s good news, but it’s also a challenge. There’s growing evidence that people who have spent decades battling the virus may be aging prematurely. At the International AIDS Conference this week, numerous studies are examining how heart disease, thinning bones and a list of other health problems typically seen in the senior years seem to hit many people with HIV when they’re only in their 50s.
Already, a third of the nearly 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S. are over 50, and by 2020 half will be, Dr. Kevin Fenton of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at one of numerous sessions on aging at the world’s largest AIDS meeting.
People 50 or older accounted for 17 percent of new HIV diagnoses in 2009, according to the CDC’s latest data. That’s up from 13 percent in 2001.
There aren’t as good counts in poor regions of the world, where access to life-saving medications came years later than in developed countries.
But even in hard-hit sub-Saharan Africa, home to most of world’s HIV-infected population, studies suggest 3 million people living with HIV are 50-plus, said Dr. Joel Negin of the University of Sydney in Australia. By 2040, he said, that could reach 9 million.