The San Juan Health Department has created a program to educate Puerto Rican seniors about their risk for contracting HIV, reports the Miami Herald (, 1/28).

The program, called Golden Force, hopes to tackle the growing number of Puerto Ricans aged 60 and above who are becoming infected with HIV, due in part to seniors’ misperceptions that they aren’t at risk, according to the Miami Herald.

For the year ending in September 2007, 238 new cases of HIV were reported in Puerto Rico among people aged 60 or older, up 25 percent from the previous year.

“We realized a number of our viejitos were starting to get sick,” said Luis Martínez Suárez, medical director the San Juan AIDS clinic, which runs Golden Force. “We knew we needed to start paying attention to that age group, taking the message of prevention to seniors.”

Martínez Suárez said that drugs like Viagra and Cialis make it possible for older men to have sex well into their 90s. This trend, combined with mistaken beliefs that only gay men and injection drug users can contract HIV, has contributed to the rise in HIV among the elderly.

Golden Force hopes to tackle the epidemic by reaching out to seniors at retirement homes and local fairs.