Saturday, May 15, 2010

HIV and The Elderly LGBT Community

HIV/AIDS. It’s not something that many think of when they think of an elderly person. Unfortunately the truth is that the rate of HIV among senior citizens is increasing. Most studies focus on gay men in particular, and “gays” in general, without including lesbians, bisexuals and transgender. The truth is that ALL members of the LGBT community have sex. It gets even hairier when you talk about the elderly. Lets face it, no one really thinks about grandma or grandpa having sex. It just isn’t a picture or a thought most want to have. Most think sex stops at 20 something. This just isn’t true.

The rate of HIV for gay men has grown to almost 44 percent. Part of the problem is that older generations of elderly/senior adults have traditionally focused on staying away from talking about sexual issues. They are from a time when “certain things” were kept private. Sadly this area of thought can no longer be carried over. Sex as many know, is a natural part of life. Just as parents have given “The talk” to young children, it is time to give “the talk” to their parents and grandparents. It just might save their life.

Some of the main problems facing the senior LGBT community stems not only from the fact of sex as a taboo subject, but also the fact that now gay men in particular have access to medications such as Viagra ,Cialis and other pharmaceuticals. In a healthy adult male (as n females) sex can continue until the end of life. It is therefor imperative for those who came out later in life, those who have been out of the dating game, and those who are just realizing embracing their sexuality to learn how to protect themselves. Condoms are the main way of course, as is limiting the amount of sexual partners and knowing their sexual history. Especially in this day when even the elderly have access to online dating. Being informed and using that information is crucial. Forewarned is still forearmed.

There is another thing to consider when dealing with LGBT seniors, it is the fact that many will not seek medical attention either because they are ashamed to talk about possibly having an std. It could be they suspect they have gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes or any other std, but are embarrassed to bring it up. Another factor is that many of the elderly as they age, may confuse symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue, skin rashes and the like as part of normal aging, and therefor not seek any medical attention. This is a mistake. If you are an elderly person, or know of one who is going through any of these symptoms, please bring up the need for medical attention.

Lastly there is something that again most don’t realize. They are many who don’t’ want to bring attentions to themselves in any way. This may also be because many are from the beginning of the HIV era. They may be suffering from “Survivors Guilt” and may not relish the thought of remembering or dealing with losing so many friends and loved ones. There is no shame is living, as there is no shame in loving. Love means wanting your loved ones to continue in life. It’s kind of corny I know, but it’s the truth. I know I would want those I care about to go on after I’m gone.

So please, if you are an elderly LGBT person, please do not ever be ashamed to speak to your doctor. If you are young and know someone, perhaps a family member or friend, try to bring up the subject (tastefully) and without beating around the bush (no pun intended). Not every elderly person is in a wheelchair...and even those that are....may still have a few cards up their sleeve! Yes children are the future...but the elderly made that future possible. Lets all remember that.

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