Women of a Certain Age . . .

Women over fifty are:

• The fastest growing demographic of people being newly infected with HIV:
15-17% of all new infections of HIV are of people over the age of fifty. Older women are severely underserved in this arena and often experience late diagnosis and treatment, as well as early death.  Because of this disparity, there is an urgent need for resources and outreach focused specifically on women over fifty. 

• At increased risk for other sexually transmitted diseases:
The CDC has reported that cases of Syphilis have increased 60% between 2005 and 2009 nationally, but 70% in the 55 to 64 age group. Incidences of Chlamydia rose 27% among all ages but doubled that among those 55 to 64.

• Also greatly at risk for Hepatitis C infection:
One in 33 baby boomers have HCV (Hepatitis C). 70% of HCV-infected persons in the US are aged 45 to 64. An estimated 5 million Americans have already been infected with HCV, which is the most common blood-borne chronic viral illness. Most people with chronic hepatitis C are unaware that they are infected. Approximately 20- 30% of people with chronic Hepatitis develop Cirrhosis of the Liver, and each year 1 – 4% of people with HCV-related cirrhosis develop liver cancer. The number of new cases of liver cancer and associated liver cancer deaths are expected to double in the United States over the next 10 to 20 years. Liver cancer is currently the most lethal and fastest growing cancer in the US, with the majority of the cases caused by viral hepatitis.

Other factors contribute to an increased
infection rate:

•Doctors are reluctant to discuss sexual issues with older women;

•With decreased risk for pregnancy over 50, safe sex is not frequently encouraged and therefore condoms are not utilized adequately;

•The advent of on-line dating and the use of erectile dysfunction drugs enable many people to engage sexually with multiple partners, potentially increasing the risk of contracting HIV;

•Women over 50 returning to the dating scene after monogamous long-term relationships may be ill-equipped to deal with basic aspects of setting boundaries around sexual encounters because of low self-esteem or social conventions that no longer apply;

Beginning in Oregon, Women of a Certain Age… will establish local resources for women over fifty for information and support regarding HIV/AIDS, sexual health and Hepatitis C prevention education.  WOACA will disseminate this information through peer educators in community settings including churches, garden groups, workplace sites and other venues.

Women will have access to testing information, condom instruction, and various resources around and within their communities. There will be monthly supervision sessions to support peer educators and to discuss new articles, findings and research. These sessions will be offered through conference calls so that everyone can participate and learn from each other.

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2013 annual report

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2013 was a very different year for Women of a Certain Age. It was very exciting to create my new book, Behind Door #3: Choose With Your Eyes Wide Open, using the money from the Marigold Hotel award received in 2012. The book is being marketed personally and online as a revenue source for WOACA. It will be reviewed in the March issue of POZ Magazine in time for Women/Girls HIV Awareness Day. A grant has now been submitted to the Veterans Administration for staff training on how to help women veterans write their stories about the effects of sexual trauma and its potential impact on their future intimate relationships.

I reached out to 2000 plus women this year, participated in bar/event outreach, 12 street, health and community  fairs, and had a table at the  50's Expo in Vancouver, Washington, resulting in a distribution of over 1000 condoms, lubricant and dental dams. My numerous presentations included a workshop for staff at Christie's House in San Diego, (and an invitation to speak at their National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Conference in March, 2014), presenting at the Pacific Northwest Women's Conference and speaking at a Portland Soroptimist meeting. Thanks to a generous contribution, I will be presenting at the American Society on Aging Conference in March. 2014 and am exploring opportunities to present with AIDS Canada and Canadian Association for Retired People (CARP). I was interviewed on a Portland Community Access TV program and will be doing a satellite radio interview on Smart Women Talk Radio in January.

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