In the United States and Canada, more than 1.1 million people currently have HIV/AIDS. That population – roughly equivalent to the population of the city of Dallas, Texas – may seem daunting, but it is only a small share of the global community of HIV/AIDS sufferers. That community numbers more than 33 million people around the world.
In North America, HIV/AIDS has often been seen as a young person’s illness, but that is quickly changing, according to Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, an infectious disease physician at the University of Pittsburgh.
“In the recent past, HIV was considered to be a death sentence,” Dr. Adalja said. “But with effective treatment, it has become a condition that people can live with, and that does not shorten their life span.” As a result, he added, people with HIV/AIDS are living longer than ever before, and they now represent a larger share of people with HIV/AIDS than ever before.
Dr. Adalja added that while living longer is part of the equation, it does not fully explain the rise in older people with HIV/AIDS.
“For a long time, the medical community has seen younger people as a priority to communicate HIV with,” he said. “And that means many older people have perhaps thought that they are not at risk, and as a result have potentially engaged in risky sexual behavior.”
And while the next two years will bring about a highly symbolic demographic change of people with HIV/AIDS, with longer life spans and better medical attention, but according to Dr. Adalja, prevention is still key.