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Teen Health 411

HIV and Your Grandparents

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It may be time for teens or parents to sit grandpa down and talk about HIV prevention. Not for the benefit of the teen, but for the protection of grandpa and grandma. The over-50 crowd is a relatively small part of the at-risk group for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, but the number of HIV infected seniors and aging baby boomers in increasing.

There is a huge group of the over-50 crowd who never got sexuality education in school and who ignore HIV prevention messages that are targeted at the more traditional high risk groups like gay men, youth, women, injection drug users, etc... Anyone in public health can tell you that if a person does not perceive themselves to be at risk, they are not going to hear prevention messages.

Jane Fowler is a 72-year-old HIV prevention advocate, and has been since was infected with HIV in her 50s. According to Jane, people need to get over their embarrassment and start taking. We know that people are staying sexually active longer and living longer, so the risk is there - it does not disappear if we fail to discuss it. Doctors, friends, kids, grandchildren, and everyone else should be checking on the HIV prevention knowledge, motivation and skills of the older crowd.

If people are over 50, they should be tested (I suggest at an anonymous testing site so it is not in your medical record) for HIV, understand how it is transmitted between people, and have a plan for preventing it with condoms, abstinence, or testing/monogamy. This news may come as a very unwelcome surprise, so get busy and start talking. Once you get started, the possible topics are endless.

Resources
HIV Wisdom for Older Women
NAHOF (National Association on HIV Over Fifty)

Photo credit: Joe Shalbotnik
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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