Steven Blackett, Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development delivers feature address at??last week’s seminar entitled ‘HIV and the Elderly’, at the Savannah Hotel. (A.Miller/BGIS)??

A call has gone out for the development of HIV prevention strategies specifically for the elderly.

The call has come from Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett, who believes that older persons in our society are "potentially at risk of HIV infection".

??Attendees at the HIV and the Elderly Seminar, last week at the Savannah Hotel. (A.Miller/BGIS)

He was at the time addressing a seminar entitled HIV and the Elderly, which was recently hosted by the National Assistance Board at the Savannah Hotel.

The Minister emphasised that the risk factors for contracting the virus were basically the same for persons over 50 years of age as they were for younger persons. He, however, noted that some sexually active seniors were not practising safe sex because they had passed the age of child bearing.

He added: "Some older persons…may be less knowledgeable about HIV and AIDS and, therefore, less likely to protect themselves. Many do not perceive themselves as at risk of HIV, do not use condoms, and do not get tested…"

Minister Blackett also reasoned that health care practitioners may not offer HIV testing or explain preventive measures because they underestimate the older patients’ risk of contracting the virus.

The Social Care Minister disclosed that projections showed that by 2017 more than half of HIV-infected persons living in the Western Hemishphere, will be over 50 years old, and, therefore, stressed the need for increased awareness and knowledge about the virus for the older population.

He said that "the development of training modules to help them negotiate risk-reduction behaviours… [and] more messages that are age-appropriate and culturally sensitive to the circumstances of older Barbadians" were very important.

"Seminars such as this one today, form an integral part of the Ministry’s strategy of prevention and control; and care and support, as we seek to educate and sensitise this sector about the dangers and impact of HIV and AIDS and the consequences of risky sexual behaviour," Minister Blackett stated.


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