HIV in sexual and reproductive health and rights of the ageing population

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Fernanda Clara da Silva, a student of the second year of Medicine of Rio Grande do Norte State University (UERN). 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.


Every year, campaigns like the Red December are highlighted in the awareness about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, although it is extremely important to address this issue in the young and adult population, helping to deconstruct stigmas, prejudices and bringing safe information, a large portion of the population is left out of this and vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs): the elderly.

To explain this lack of inclusion of the older population in these health policies, it is necessary to address the stigma that still exists on sexuality in the elderly. Most of the elderly have an active sex life and, although pregnancy is no longer a problem at this stage of life, sexually transmitted infections remain an important issue. In addition, the elderly who belong to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Transvestite (LGBT+) group suffer even more from the invisibility of their sexuality. Another relevant factor is the health professionals themselves. Even geriatricians often ignore the possibility of sexual relationship for these elderly patients, which also delays an early diagnosis and an effective approach to HIV infection.

In addition, in the Brazilian context, the Ministry of Health pointed out that the number of people over 60 years of age and HIV positive has increased 103% in the last 10 years and may grow even more. Such a situation in the elderly is worrying, since, in addition to late diagnosis, the health system still sees this sexuality as a taboo and campaigns are excluding. Still, it takes into account the fragility of the immune system at this age and the concomitance with chronic diseases, which can aggravate the condition of HIV. It is clear that talking about sexual and reproductive health and rights must also reach these elderly people.

Thus, it is important that social and educational actions include the older population. In addition to health institutions and the government, medical schools also need to address this bias in the curriculum. An example of action occurred in the Elderly Health Incentive Group (GISI), an extension project of the local committee of International Federation of Medical Students Associations of Brazil at the Rio Grande do Norte State University (IFMSA Brazil UERN), which dedicated activities such as film and YouTube live with guest to discuss sexuality in the elderly. Thus, it was possible to raise the debate on STIs such as HIV and its implications, addressing LGBTQ+ elderly people and understanding the importance of the elderly being inserted in discussions about health and sex education.

Therefore, to improve this scenario, it is important that there is visibility of these elderly people, both in the health system and in doctors’ offices, as well as in educational campaigns and actions promoted both by the government and by medical student entities. The fight for visibility, awareness and information about HIV must be a fight that includes all colors and also, all ages.

References

AGUIAR, R.B. et al. Idosos vivendo com HIV – comportamento e conhecimento sobre sexualidade: revisão integrativa. Ciência & Saúde Coletiva [online]. v. 25, n.2, p.575-584. Available from: <https://doi.org/10.1590/1413-81232020252.12052018&gt;. Access on 20. Nov. 2020.

CASSÉTTE, J.B. et al. HIV/aids em idosos: estigmas, trabalho e formação em saúde. Rev. Bras. Geriatr. Gerontol., Rio de Janeiro, 2016; 19(5):733-744. Availabre from < https://www.scielo.br/pdf/rbgg/v19n5/pt_1809-9823-rbgg-19-05-00733.pdf&gt;. Access on 20. Nov. 2020.

PAIVA, A. Sem campanhas preventivas, HIV cresce entre idosos Faculdade de Medicina UFMG. Dec. 2019. Available from: <https://www.medicina.ufmg.br/sem-campanhas-preventivas-hiv-cresce-entre-idosos/&gt;. Access on 20. Nov. 2020.

YouTube Channel IFMSA Brazil UERN – GISI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09CAgyh0ziQ&list=PLFvBizLZYe5Ur0E5Et4H2Mmg0iTSlH3js. Access on 20. Nov. 2020.

About the author

Fernanda Clara da Silva is a student of the second year of Medicine of Rio Grande do Norte State University (UERN). She is the Vice president of the academic league of pathophysiology of clinical emergencies and the coordinator of the Elderly Health Incentive Group extension project. She is a former LSG of the IFMSA Brazil UERN.

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