This article by Tim Murphy of which the following is an excerpt first appeared in POZ magazine here.
Nancy Asha Molock did the right thing. When Molock—a striking, bright-smiled 63-year-old retired Philadelphia schoolteacher—started dating again in 2000 after divorce ended a 17-year marriage that produced two kids, she’d heard the reports that sexually active midlife folks were susceptible to HIV and should wear condoms with partners of unknown status. So when she started dating a fellow her age—whom she became engaged to and who, she often noticed, had a chronic cough—she insisted at first on condoms.
“I said to him, It’s going to be condoms until you have an HIV test,” she recalls. “But he kept putting it off. He said he’d never injected drugs or been with men, and I believed him. He also said he didn’t like how condoms felt. One night,” she sighs, “I caved to affection. And once you allow them not to wear a condom the first time, that’s it.”
Her fiancé’s health further declined. “I found him shivering in front of the computer one morning and took him to the ER.” Sure enough, her fiancé had AIDS. Later, he finally admitted to having been with sex workers, “and I think there’s more he’s never told me,” Molock says. When she tested herself shortly thereafter and found out she was HIV positive, she says she wasn’t surprised. “My doctor said to me, ‘I have some bad news—you have HIV,’” she recalls, “and I said, ‘Okay, what’s the next step?’ My doctor said, ‘Did you hear what I just said?’ And I said, ‘Yes I did, so what’s the next step?’”
Molock still married that man, only to divorce him a few years later, even as she faced coping and living with HIV at 50, an age at which many people (often mistakenly) consider themselves in the clear for sexually transmitted infections. Her story is not an isolated one. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2011, the last year for which data is available, nearly 20,000 Americans older than 40 were diagnosed with HIV. That’s 40 percent of the total (around 49,000) for that year. And 16 percent of those diagnoses were in folks over age 50.
It’s hard to know how many of those diagnoses reflected recent versus long-term infections. But in 2011, folks ages 40 to 49 made up the highest percentage of those diagnosed with advanced AIDS, suggesting that some folks in midlife go years with HIV before diagnosis. “The older people get, the later they get tested from their point of infection,” says Mark Brennan-Ing, PhD, research director at AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA), which specializes in HIV/AIDS in older Americans. “A lot of people over 50 don’t talk to their doctors about sex.”
To read the rest of the article go here.