STIs And The Older Generation
Despite what many believe, age does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections. However, the general belief amongst many older people is that STIs are something associated with young people. So inherent is this belief, it is no surprise that many safe sex awareness campaigns are targeted at a younger demographic.
Although statistics show that more and more young people are getting sexually transmitted infections, new figures from Public Health England, show that STI diagnoses have risen in the over 45 year olds, with rates doubling in recent years. As older adults become more adventurous in what the media has coined the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ effect, it seems like their carefree attitude to sex may be affecting their sexual health. So, where has this sudden growth in STIs in older adults come from? The Department of Health and Human Services issued a shocking report, which showed that the number of pensioner Medicare enrollees who used the opportunity to use free STD tests equalled the amount of enrollees who received free colonoscopies for colon cancer.
Source: Department of Health and Human Services
By The New York Times
Although STI diagnoses continue to rise rapidly among young people and in numbers is probably far greater than older adults, the rise of STIs in those over 45 and over continues to steadily grow. The interactive map below shows the increase of STI diagnoses in older adults across England. Each region shows the overall growth of STI diagnoses. Between 2012-2014, London has seen a growth of 28% in STI diagnoses in this age group, with a 65% growth in gonorrhoea diagnoses. Chlamydia diagnoses in older adults saw an increase of 22%.
According to some experts, the rise of STIs among older adults can be attributed to the following:
It is common knowledge that sex education or the lack of it in the past was not of the highest quality. According to the ONS study, when asked about the symptoms of chlamydia, only 19% of men in the over 50s age group gave the right answers, in comparison to the 37% in the 30-34 age group. The study showed the clear knowledge gap on sexual health between older adults and younger adults.
Some experts have cited the separation and the new carefree dating culture for a rise of STIs in older adults. According to a representative of sexual health charity FPA, ‘people over the age of 50, do not think that safe sex applies to them.’ This carefree attitude has contributed to the rise of all of the five most common STIs, including gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis, genital warts, and genital herpes.
The introduction of social media, such as dating sites, dating apps, for many adults over 45 is something of a new phenomenon. These apps and the ability to meet people easily have enabled older adults to meet new people more than ever, thus allowing them to enjoy a more adventurous sex life.
The change of life:
Many women who go through the change, mistakenly believe that an STI cannot be contracted during sex, in the same way that a pregnancy cannot occur. However, this is false and although a woman cannot get pregnant during the menopause, she is still able to contract an STI.
Gay men at risk:
Although the spread of STIs has been affected heterosexual men, recent figures have shown that the spread of sexually transmitted infections among gay and bisexual men has been particularly high. A study by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), and a number of universities found that there was a 26% rise from 1990-2010 in the proportion of men who have sex with men’ due to the failure of condom use.
The chart from Public Health England shows the number of new diagnoses of STIs in men who have sex with men (2005-2014), England.
How to protect yourself against an STI
The following steps can help to protect you against an STI. According to the CDC, these methods will help you to protect you and your partner, reducing the risk of an STI.
Not having sex is the only way to protect yourself from having an STI.
Wear a condom:
Every time you have sex, whether it is vaginal, anal, or oral, you should use a condom. Both male and female condoms when used correctly can help to protect you against a sexually transmitted infection.
Reduce your number of partners:
Reducing your number of sex partners can decrease your chances of getting an STI. Experts advised that a couple get frequent testing to ensure that you are both safe and to avoid the occurrence of an infection.
Vaccinations to protect against HPV and hepatitis B. If you did not get a vaccine when you were younger, it is usually recommended that you do.
It is recommended that you get a screening at least once a year, even more so if you have had several sexual partners.