Friday, July 22, 2011


Hi!  Fanny Collier here, and like I told you the first time I wrote on this blog, every once in a while I’m tossing in some thoughts of mine that I call Brain Farts.  Why do I call them that?  Because some of the things that I want to talk about are so simple that even an idiot without a brain should be able to figure them out, and have I got a doozy for you this time.  
I was sitting in the doctor’s office the other day waiting to get my annual checkup and minding my own business when this woman struck up a conversation with me.  The two of us were the only ones left in the waiting room, so I guess she didn’t have anything better to do than bother me.  She had been reading this magazine, while I was trying to sneak in a short cat nap.  All of a sudden she starts to moan and groan about this article that she was reading and decided to share her ideas about it with me—am I glad that she did.
The article was about the rise in HIV/AIDS in older women in the United States. Since I’m in my eighties, I don’t know why I seemed to be the ideal candidate for this discussion from this woman’s point of view, but then again, why shouldn’t I be?  She was a woman who I guessed to be in her fifties, maybe sixties, and despite the opinion of a lot of young people she was probably still sexually active, and I’m a widow who if given the opportunity might be willing to do a little messing around myself.  So when she started talking I listened.  I figure that a little knowledge never killed anybody, but ignorance can kill.  This is what she told me:
According to the Center for Disease Control people age 50 and up accounted for:
  • 15% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses
  • 24% of persons living with HIV/AIDS (increased from 17% from 2001-2005)  
  • 19% of all AIDS diagnoses
  • 29% of persons living with AIDS
  • 35% of all deaths of persons with AIDS
The rates of HIV/AIDS among persons 50 and older were 12 times as high among blacks and 5 times as high among Hispanics compared with whites.

I mean to tell you, when I heard all of this my eyebrows went all the way up to my hairline!  What in the world is going on? Have these old butt men and women lost their minds?  What kind of madness was this?  After hearing this I had to do some research so that I could wrap this around my mind.

The first one I asked about this was my doctor.  As soon as I got inside his office I started questioning him. He seemed surprised that I brought it up.  He’s a man of about forty-five and couldn’t seem to imagine why a woman my age would bring up the subject. He tried to divert my attention by informing me that I didn’t have to worry about it.  He said that people who were sexually active or were intravenous drugs users were in danger of becoming HIV positive. I asked him how he knew that I wasn’t one of those. He had to admit that he didn’t know for sure.  See, one of the problems is that doctors and other medical professionals underestimate the risk for older people.  They need to get a clue!

Once I got him straight, he told me that his older patients rarely asked about sexual matters and he rarely brought them up, and that’s another problem. Older folks don’t discuss HIV/AIDS, not among ourselves or with our health care providers, and those who have it hide the fact because of shame or embarrassment.  If they talk about it they might be able to spread the word.  The doctor told me that older women are especially at high risk for HIV/AIDS because as we age there is “vaginal thinning and dryness that can cause tears in the vaginal area.” That means that the virus could enter through the tears.

Now this threw me for a loop, that and when he told me that some of the symptoms of an AIDS diagnosis can be like the ones that might come with aging, such as being tired, or losing weight or having mental confusion.  Sometimes because of this an early diagnosis might be missed by a doctor.  That’s not reassuring at all!

So here we are, and this is a no brainer.  We older people have to protect ourselves!  We’ve got to speak up, talk to each other about this HIV/AIDS thing, talk to our doctors and anybody else who will listen.  Don’t let some medical person ignore you, demand to be recognized as not only a human being but as sexual humans. It could mean your life if you don’t.

Get out there and get tested for HIV, even if you’re not sexually active now you still could be carrying the virus from when you were in the past.  The virus can stay in your system a long time and not show itself.  They have drugs now that may help save your life, so don’t wait until it might be too late.  Most of all don’t be a fool.  Use a condom if you’re having sex. I don’t care how old you are, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Now that’s a real Brain Fart.

Muse on it,

Miss Fanny

No comments:

Post a Comment