From the title I’m assuming you know exactly which generation I’m referring to. That’s right! The Baby Boomers. Born between 1946 and 1964, boomers were teenagers more interested in having a good time than the potential health risks they were putting their bodies through. Unless they were worried about becoming a baby daddy, it was quite doubtful teenage males wore a condom. Not only was it not on their mind, but it was a humiliating process. Condoms could only be purchased at the local drug store; where there was a pretty darn good chance the person working behind the till knew you or your parents (that’s the last thing you wanted to be seen buying). With sex come drugs. Drugs were readily available and used with little or no thought behind it. Home piercings and tattoos were also very common. Often multiple piercings would take place with the use of only one needle… yikes. It was a carefree generation. However, as the boomers continue to age, the behaviors of the past may come back and haunt them as seniors.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and hepatitis C are both blood borne pathogens and therefore both need to be considered if any at risk behavior has taken place. Little did they know that that one time they shared a needle or had unsafe sex, boomers put themselves at risk.
According to Dr. David Wong, director of the liver clinic at Toronto Western Hospital, “they’re now trying to say if you’re born between 1945 and 1965 you actually have a reasonable chance of having hepatitis C in North America.”
Hepatitis C is most commonly spread through infected needles and can cause inflammation of the liver, scarring of the organ, cirrhosis and other complications, including liver cancer. The scary thing is, “symptoms don’t occur until there’s liver failure about 20 to 30 years later,” said Wong.
Not only did this carefree mentality affect baby boomers as teenagers but it would appear the same way of thinking is prevalent in aging seniors. Francoise was infected with HIV at the age of 67. She had just begun a relationship with a man a few years after the death of her husband. It had not occurred to Francoise to protect herself from HIV. Even though there is plenty of access to free condoms and the chances of knowing the store clerk have drastically declined (if you do and you’re embarrassed, go to another store or come to AIDS Calgary and we’ll gladly stock you up) seniors often don’t associate themselves as at risk for HIV. The matter of fact is no matter what your age, you need to take steps to protect yourself from HIV.
One of the reasons that people think seniors are not at risk of contracting HIV is because they don’t think seniors are sexually active. Dr. Marc Ganem, president of the World Association of Sexology explains, “With divorce increasing commonplace, drugs available to treat erectile dysfunction, and changing sexual mores, seniors have been encouraged to have full sex lives.” You might want to rethink the sex talk before dropping grandma off at the retirement home… just sayin’.
In Canada, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is spreading to demographic groups previously not as affected. As the baby boomers move into their fifties and sixties, could they be the next group most at risk of contracting the virus?
It’s highly encouraged that any boomers make Hep C and HIV testing a part of their yearly physical exam as neither virus discriminates or gives any generation a free pass.
They might not be able to stand rock and roll music anymore but there’s a pretty high chance they’re still into sex and drugs (even if it is just the prescription kind).