Older adults’ sexual health is becoming an increasingly important component of healthy aging in the wake of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and rising infection rates among this age cohort. The increase in HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the older adult population ignites the need to understand the reasons why older adults are omitted from HIV/AIDS prevention education policy.
This chapter examines the social forces that influence HIV/AIDS policy at the state and community levels. Through qualitative methodology and analysis, including interviews with state policymakers and managers of AIDS service organizations in four Midwestern states (n=31), I look for trends and patterns as to whether or not older adults are considered as an “at-risk” group for HIV infection.
Findings reveal that HIV/AIDS policy may be impacted by enduring sexual scripts about older adults. To some extent both state policymakers and AIDS service organization personnel adhere to stereotypes about older adults’ sexuality and sexual activity, which is then implemented in their health promotion activities. The result is that gaps exist in HIV/AIDS prevention education for older adults, despite the fact that current trends show an increase in new HIV infections and AIDS diagnoses among people over the age of 50.
While this is an exploratory study of the available HIV/AIDS prevention education and health promotion activities for older adults, as well as the viewpoints of state policymakers and AIDS service organization personnel, the findings do indicate the need for additional research on the potentially dangerous sexual behaviors – lack of HIV testing, low condom usage, multiple partners – exhibited by older adults. Future research involving interviews with older adults, physicians, and medical personnel may add new perspectives to the current research.
Originality/value of chapter
As the baby boomers continue to age and challenge cultural stereotypes of sexual behaviors among older adults, research in the area of sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention education will remain an important component of healthy aging. This research begins what will ultimately be a necessary conversation.
Wood, A.M. (2013), "A Generation Skipped: An Exploratory Study of HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention Services for Older Adults", Social Determinants, Health Disparities and Linkages to Health and Health Care (Research in the Sociology of Health Care, Vol. 31), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 217-246. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0275-4959(2013)0000031012
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