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STDs Rising Among Boomers

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A boomer friend who recently re-entered the dating scene found herself sharing the bed of a younger man. Her report from the front-line: It was a meet-up of the generation who had never had sex with a condom and the generation who had never had sex without one. She was shocked when he halted the proceedings to put on a condom -- especially over her protest that since pregnancy would be nothing short of a medical miracle, he needn't bother. The good news is, he bothered.

Kudos to her gentleman friend, I say. But my friend's attitude is unfortunately a prevailing one among boomers. Once the risk of pregnancy is removed from the equation, we seem to forget about the other things condoms protect us from: sexually transmitted diseases that can actually kill us and even when they don't, can be stubborn and expensive to treat.

Talk about fatal attractions: The rates of many sexually transmitted diseases and infections among boomers are rising and with them the risks of cancer, chronic pain and death. In 2010, an Ohio health study found that 20 percent of the people testing positive for HIV were 50 or older -- a statistic that rivals the number of infected people who are in the 20- to 24-year-old group. And no Virginia, they weren't all gay men.

Who are we fooling here, friends? With age should come some maturity and common sense, no? At least that's what I tell my teenager. But it would appear that boomers may be the dumbest bunnies of all when it comes to having unprotected sex.

It seems that the generation too-invincible-to-use condoms didn't get much in the way of sex education in school. Add to that the fact that boomers came of age liberated by the pill and AIDS wasn't around yet to scare us into condom-usage. So I get the part where we boinked freely and for pleasure, out of the context of a committed relationship and with few worries other than it be "good."

Malarky to that, I say. I assumed the HIV-AIDS epidemic put out the fire of the free love movement decades ago, so why are there still boomers running around willy-nilly and without condoms on their willys?

Even AARP has noticed our foolish behavior in the bedroom. In a report last year, only 20 percent of unmarried sexually active boomers reported using condoms regularly and only 12 percent of the men and 32 percent of the women said they used one every time. No surprise then that 5 percent of the 1,670 men and woman studied have been diagnosed with human papillomavirus (genital warts) or gonorrhea and 3 percent have herpes.

The most common reasons why boomers say they don't use condoms are that they were swept away with the passions of the moment, didn't have one handy, were insulted at being asked or didn't think they could perform with one on. All that's missing is the Grateful Dead playing in the background.