The myth that elderly people mostly lead asexual lives may not be entirely true. Recent official data shows the number of HIV positive cases among elderly people (50+) in Madhya Pradesh has doubled in past six years.
At present, on an average over 450 elderly are contracting HIV virus annually, according to the official record of Madhya Pradesh State AIDS Control Society. In the past six years, the number of HIV positive elderly people has increased from 218 in 2008 to 414 in 2014 (till October). Roughly, of 10 people contracting HIV in the state, one is 50 plus. Since 2008, more than 30,253 people have been found to be HIV positive in MP. Of this, 2,560 people are aged over 50.
Statistics also show that 86% of the overall HIV-infected people contract the virus from unsafe sexual activity. Thus, it could be deduced that a majority of the HIV-infected elderly also might have caught the virus in a similar fashion, social organisations working for HIV positive people feel.
They say that there are many factors responsible for this trend — from increased detection, lonely or bored elderly people indulging in unsafe sex, to downslide in the emphasis on AIDS awareness in the recent years.
Projector coordinator of NGO Asha Smita Foundation, Sanjeev Saxena, who works for AIDS awareness in MP, said that increased migration of people in and across MP, increased drug use, commercial sex, homosexuality and carelessness on the part of people were contributing to the surge in HIV patients. “In case of elderly people, many become bored or lonely after 50. They seek sexual satisfaction by forming sexual liaisons and even seek services of prostitutes. And most of them indulge in unsafe sex as they are shy to go to a chemist to buy condoms at such an age. They don’t feel comfortable in that and take a chance,” he said.
However, there were others who were more guarded in their response. Mukesh Sinha, executive director, Madhya Pradesh Voluntary Health Association, an NGO working with the HIV-affected families in the state, said the numbers were showing an increasing trend because the detection rate had also increased. “But at the same time people are contracting HIV in increased numbers is also a fact. In recent years, the emphasis on AIDS has come down as the funding for AIDS control has shrunk. Also, AIDS control programme has not been made a mainstream campaign in the health department. It continues to be a separate vertical in the health sector,” he said.
Sinha stressed on four things to effectively fight AIDS — strategy, policy, implementation and community participation. “Strategy and policy are ok here, but a lot needs to be done when it comes to implementation and community participation.”