Four years ago, Dr. Margaret Hoffman-Terry, an infectious-disease specialist in Allentown, Pa., told me about a burgeoning specialty in AIDS medicine. "There’s a new field of geriatric HIV," she said. "It’s striking to think you’ve gone from a rapidly fatal illness to discussing old age for these patients."
That doctors would someday be dealing with problems caused by HIV-infected patients growing old was unthinkable during the first two decades of an epidemic now well into its third. For someone who lived through the 1980s and early ’90s, when HIV usually meant a death sentence, it’s nothing short of miraculous.
Tell that to the aging men and women who have lived with the AIDS crisis since the beginning. Growing old is never easy, but for them, HIV has brought on layers of additional problems. Of the 1 million-plus people living with HIV in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that just about one-third are over 50. By 2015, that percentage will increase to half of all HIV-positive Americans.
Adding to their numbers, 17 percent of all new HIV cases are occurring in people 50 and over. For too long, their stories have gone untold.
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