Age of AIDS

"It's a serious problem," says Debby Elliot. "While rates of HIV infection among gay men either stays the same or actually goes down, it's going to keep on increasing among older people until they realize that it affects them as much as anybody else."

What does her organization plan to do about it? "People have to be educated about it. So we're offering HIV tests in Sun City on June 5."

To protect the confidentiality of those being tested, the location of the test is not being made public. But anyone who wants to make an appointment can call 584-0040. Tests are available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Amy Melcher, a volunteer educator for Volunteer AIDS Education Network, says her organization receives few requests from older people.

"There's the same problem we have with teenagers," she says. "They think they're invincible."

But Cari Merrill, the organization's community HIV prevention coordinator, believes people charged with educating the public about AIDS are misguided.

"I think educators don't target them, because they don't think of them as being at risk. We tend to assume that older people don't have sex or use needles. So educators don't target them with the information they need," Merrill says.

This is a problem that has been on the cards for a while. Two years ago, Nancy Williams, a 63-year-old heterosexual woman who had been diagnosed as having HIV, told New Times, "I've lived in Sun City. The people out there, I'm quite sure, have unprotected sex. I guarantee you because they're older does not mean they're not sexually active."

She was obviously right. And people, young and old, continue to sentence themselves to death by having unprotected sex with people who "don't seem like they'd have anything."

Contact Barry Graham at his online address: bgraham@newtimes.com

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