Persons aged 50 years and over will soon disproportionately represent the future of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It is estimated that by 2015 older adults will represent 50% of persons living with HIV in the United States. Despite the HIV/AIDS growing population among older adults, attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes toward older adults that exist in general society have affected HIV prevention, education, and care. Specifically, ageist attitudes about the sexuality of older adults in general and older women in particular, low clinical HIV suspicion among healthcare providers, lack of knowledge about risk among older women, and differentials in power related to negotiating sexual practices all lead to heightened concerns for the prevention, identification, and treatment of HIV disease in mature women. This article examines common attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes that exist within general society as well as health and social service providers that place older women at a disadvantage when it comes to HIV prevention, education, and treatment.
Keywords: HIV/AIDS; risk; sexuality; stereotypes; women.