Huffpost Fifty

Sexually Transmitted Diseases Increasing Among Post 50s

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Yet another warning this week that post 50s are in denial about the need to practice safe sex. According to British researchers writing in the medical journal "Student BMJ," the rate of sexually transmitted diseases is skyrocketing among the senior population. New diagnoses of HIV, for example, doubled among post 50s between 2000 and 2009, and the demographic now accounts for 20 percent of adults accessing HIV treatment in Britain, the article noted.

"A cross sectional study showed that more than 80 percent of 50 to 90 year olds are sexually active with cases of many common sexually transmitted infections more than doubling in this age group in the past 10 years," wrote co-authors Rachel von Simson, a medical student at King's College London, and Ranjababu Kulasegaram, a consultant genitourinary physician at St Thomas' Hospital London. They cite studies showing an increase in cases of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea in the UK, USA and Canada in 45 to 64 year olds.

Von Simson told the "Times Colonist" in an email that there isn't enough awareness of STIs among older adults:

"Whilst we have a huge evidence base on what works to educate young people about sex and sexually transmitted infections and we have had lots of campaigns over the years dedicated towards them, we don't have any evidence base on what will work with older adults," von Simson wrote in the email. "If all the campaigns older adults see are targeted at young adults, it is not surprising that they might take from that that they are not at risk."

Similarly, a 2008 study in the medical journal "Sexually Transmitted Infections" found that in less than 10 years, the rate of STDs in those over 45 had doubled.

The reasons for these increased numbers aren't known for sure, but some theories include the rise of erectile dysfunction medication, more older adults staying sexually active and a lower rate of condom use among post 50s. In its 2010 sex study, AARP found that "one in five sexually active singles reported using a condom regularly and only 12 percent of the men and 32 percent of women said they used one every time." Likewise a 2010 study by Indiana University found that those over 45 had the lowest rate of condom use.

To top it off, older adults need to be aware of unique issues that they may face when it comes to STDs. For example, as we get older, our immune systems are not as effective, which can elevate the risk for STDs. Also, women may experience less lubrication and thinned tissue, which may lead to microtears and a higher risk of transmission.

In addition to sexual education being limited in their youth, "baby boomers became sexually active post-pill, and pre-AIDs, so have not had as much awareness or influence about STIs," Linda Kirkman, a PhD candidate at the La Trobe University Rural Health School in Bendigo, told Huff/Post50 in November. "Delays in diagnosis and treatment (perhaps because sexual health concerns are not considered for older people) mean that an infection might be more entrenched and harder to treat than if it was dealt with early on. Also the immune system is not as strong and is not as able to fight infection as it would be in a younger person."

Of course, this doesn't mean that post 50s should steer clear of sex, especially with a recent study from Match.com showing that people over 60 are most likely to reach orgasm. This same study also showed that those over 60 are pickiest about who they date. It only makes sense to apply the same caution, and be choosy about protection as well.

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