Dar es Salaam, 9 February 2017: HelpAge International has organised a two-day, high-level regional meeting on data disaggregation in Dar es Salaam on 9-10 February 2017. The meeting will encourage key stakeholders drawn from South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to recognise the need to include older people during collection, analysis and reporting of data on prevalence, prevention, care and treatment of HIV.
As the number of older people around the world increases, so does the number of people living with HIV in older age. If access to antiretroviral therapy continues to increase, the number of people aged 50 and over living with HIV in low and-middle income countries will rise from 4.7 million in 2015 to 6.9 million by 2020, according to the 2016 UNAIDS report Get on the Fast-Track: The life-cycle approach to HIV.
"Improved access to services, including education and healthcare, and increasing availability of antiretroviral therapy has enabled more people to live longer with HIV," said Juliana Benard, HelpAge International's HIV and AIDS Programme Manager in Tanzania.
"While this is positive progress, these older people largely remain invisible in national HIV data collection, analysis and reporting. This means there is limited data on prevalence, access to care and treatment among people aged 50 and over, undermining efforts to reduce new infections and AIDS-related complications."
Tools used to monitor the HIV epidemic at the national level focus primarily on people between the ages of 15 and 49. This makes it difficult to accurately estimate the number of people living with HIV in older age and to understand their experiences and the challenges they face, which are diverse and change as people age. This lack of understanding hinders the development of age-inclusive HIV policies and programmes.
There is a lack of focused age-sensitive HIV prevention and awareness messaging, as well as voluntary counseling and testing. This means older men and women are less aware of the risks of infection and are less likely to have tests, which leaves them more vulnerable and unable to benefit from expanding treatment services.
The meeting in Dar es Salaam is part of a two-year Southern Africa Development Community-funded project to promote the inclusion of people aged 50 and over in the response to HIV in Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
It presents an important opportunity to explore best practices and explore the potential to expand the age range in data collection and reporting, which can be used to inform better and more inclusive policies.
Participants will also look at how HIV policies can recognise and respond to high levels of stigma, discrimination and poverty among older people with HIV, as well as how non-communicable diseases can cause complications. There will be practical recommendations to guarantee the inclusion and visibility of people 50 and over, which is in the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals and the "leave no one behind" commitment.
Henry Mazunda, Communications Officer, Tanzania
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About HelpAge International
HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. Our work is strengthened through our global network of like-minded organisations - the only one of its kind in the world.