Number of Americans over 50 infected with HIV on the rise

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Today, the White House is decorated with a red ribbon for HIV-AIDS awareness. (WPVI)

People around the world joined forces Monday on the 26th World AIDS Day.

Once again, the White House was decorated with a red ribbon for HIV-AIDS awareness. In the U.S., more than one million are living with the infection. And that includes a growing number of older people.

54-year-old Edward Lowry was behind bars in 1998 when he learned he was infected with HIV.

He tells us, "I actually got tested three times before I really conceded that I was HIV-positive."

As Lowry learned more about HIV, he realized he was probably exposed to HIV through his drug addiction and lifestyle.

Today, he and his wife Waheedah Shabazz are in the fastest-growing segment of HIV-infected Americans - those 50 years of age and over.

The government says by 2017, half of those with HIV will be over 50.

Part of the rise is due to the success of HIV drugs, which help patients stave off AIDS itself.

Dr. Kaman Mounzer, from Philadelphia FIGHT, explains, "We have now more than thirty FDA-approved drugs. We have ten preferred regimens. We have four single-tablet regimens - one pill once a day!"

But Dr. Mounzer says there are also more older people who are newly-infected, mostly due to unprotected sex.

Dr. Mounzer says older HIV patients present new challenges.

The virus makes them more likely to develop diseases of aging, such has heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

Dr. Mounzer says, "HIV is a chronic inflammation, even when we control the virus, and we suppress it, and contain the infection, there is an ongoing low-grade inflammation."

Drug side effects can also amplify some problems, such as thinning bones or weight gain around the middle.

Lowry and Shabazz - both strong AIDS activists - say to stop the epidemic, now in its fourth decade, there's a big need for education, especially on how HIV is spread.

Lowry says, "We need to stop other people from catching HIV."

Lowry also wants to see more effort put into finding a cure for AIDS. He notes there are 2 recently approved drugs with cure hepatitis C.

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