Paris, France | AFP | People aged 50 and older comprise a growing percentage of HIV patients in Europe, accounting for one in six new cases in 2015, researchers said Wednesday.
The older cohort was more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stages of HIV and AIDS compared to 15-49 year olds, and to contract the disease through heterosexual sex, they reported in a study, published in The Lancet.
Historically, the two groups most at risk have been gay men and intravenous drug users who share needles.
“Our findings suggest a new direction in which the HIV epidemic is evolving,” said lead author Lara Tavoschi.
“They show the need to ensure all ages are appropriately targeted by sexual health services.”
In 2013, UNAIDS estimated that 4.2 million people aged 50 and older were living with HIV worldwide, a fifth of them in Europe or the United States.
Higher infection rates among this slice of the population, especially in wealthy nations, is due to greater life expectancy among HIV carriers and as well as a jump in new cases.
Tavoschi, a researcher at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Sweden, looked at European health data from 2004 to 2015.
During that period, the number of older people diagnosed with HIV increased in 16 European countries, while remaining stable or declining in 15 others, the study found.
Overall, the rate of new cases among people aged 50 or older across 31 countries — the European Union along with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway — went up, on average, by more than two percent each year.
It rose from 2.1 to 2.6 people per 100,000.
The rate among older men was four times higher than for older women.