Sexuality and ageing: challenges of achieving sexual rights in people with HIV

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms.  Bruna Teixeira da Costa, a second-year medical student at the Federal University of Bahia, in Vitória da Conquista, BA – Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


The elder’s sexuality is not only  relationated to pleasure, but also with health quality and longevity. Those who maintain an active sex life, reaching multiple orgasms, demonstrate mortality rates up to 50% lower when compared to those who do not obtain or refer to have a lower amount of orgarsms.

Over the years, it is noticeable that the percentage of the population with 50+ years old HIV-positive is increasing in relation to the total cases of HIV. Currently, this population represents about 30% of the AIDS portrait in rich countries. However, when relating SRHR with HIV in the elderly population, challenges for the promotion of these rights are prominent

Hormonal and immunological factors make it even harder to insert the individual in society, especially when we talk about women. The decrease in the hormonal production of estrogen and progesterone interferes directly with the genital organ function, leading to diminished vaginal lubrication and elasticity. These factors, among others that influence sexual desire, interferes with negativity on sexuality.

It is usual that during senescence, several old-aged people tend to feel lonely due to the loss of a husband or wife. In our society, prejudice surrounds the concept of the old, relating it to invalidity and infirmity. Thus, it is even more complicated for widows HIV-positive to find a partner. These factors may also contribute to scenarios of depression due to loneliness. 

Besides that, discrimination against people with HIV, despite decreasing during the ‘90s, remains in the young and elderly population. Several studies showed that at least 50% of the HIV-positive population feel ashamed about it. Moreover, the lack of freedom to discuss this makes it difficult to acquire knowledge and promote sexual health. Thus, access to information for the elderly must change, allowing them to know about their sexual and reproductive rights.

As a consequence, several HIV-positive elderly are unable to exercise entirely their SRHR. To change that, it is crucial to stimulate health and sexual and reproductive education. Condom distribution, reducing prejudice, and strengthening discussion spaces are efficient ways to promote SRHR to the elderly. 

References:

  1. NARAHIMHAN, M; PAYNE, C. CALDAS, S; BEARD, J.R; KENNEDY, C.E. Ageing and healthy sexuality among women living with HIV.Available from: <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28024676/;. Access on: 23 Nov. 2020.
  2. ORZA, L; BEWLEY, S; LOGIE, C.H et al. How does living with HIV impact on women’s mental health? Voices from a global survey. Available from: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4672402/;. Access on: 23 Nov. 2020.
  3. CHARLES,  E. You’re Awfully Old to Have This Disease”: Experiences of Stigma and Ageism in Adults 50 Years and Older Living With HIV/AIDS. Available from:<https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/46/6/781/584653;. Access on: 23 Nov. 2020.
  4. SABIK, N.J. Ageism and body esteem: associations with psychological well-being among late middle-aged African American and European American women. Available from: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4351384;. Access on: 23 Nov. 2020
  5. CARVAJAL, Julián. Sexualidad and senectud. Available from: <http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0121-75772008000100002&lang=pt;. Access on: 23 Nov. 2020.

About the author

Bruna Teixeira da Costa, a second-year medical student at the Federal University of Bahia, in Vitória da Conquista, BA – Brazil. She is the Director of the Human Rights and Peace Committee at IFMSA Brasil UFBA – CAT. She helped in the structuration of the Heart for the Homeless International in her university. She believes in the transforming ability of students to bring quality knowledge outdoors.

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