Primary investigator Chandra Ford of the University of California, Los Angeles, Fielding School of Public Health, said 1-of-4 out people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States is age 50 or older, and they are far more likely to be diagnosed when they are already in the later stages of infection.
Such late diagnoses put their health, and the health of others, at greater risk than would have been the case with earlier detection, Ford said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said 43 percent of HIV-positive people between the ages of 50-55, and 51 percent of those 65 or older, develop full-blown AIDS within a year of their diagnosis. This age group also accounts for 35 percent of all AIDS-related deaths, the CDC said.
The study involved 226 participants ages 50-85 from three types of public health venues that serve at-risk populations: sexually transmitted disease clinics, needle-exchange sites and Latino health clinics from August 2006 and May 2007.
Of the participants, 46.5 percent were Hispanic, 25.2 percent were non-Hispanic blacks, 18.1 percent were non-Hispanic whites and 10.2 percent were of other races or ethnicities.
The researchers found 72 percent said they did not trust the government -- for example, the belief that the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves. The study also found 30 percent reported a belief in AIDS conspiracy theories -- for example, the belief that the virus is man-made and was created to kill certain groups of people.
The study, published in the journal The Gerontologist, found 45 percent had not taken an HIV test in the prior 12 months and the more strongly participants mistrusted the government, the less likely they were to have been tested.