Think seniors are no longer at risk for getting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)? Think again. Sexually active seniors — and there are a lot of them — are as much at risk for contracting STDs as younger folks. If you fear you have an STD and want to get tested, or don’t know how to practice safe sex, talk to our doctors at Southern Crescent Women's HealthCare.
What’s an STD?
A sexually transmitted disease — what used to be called venereal disease — is exactly what it sounds like, a disease transmitted during sexual intercourse. Examples of STDs include:
- Genital herpes
- Genital warts
- Some forms of hepatitis
STDs are ridiculously contagious. You can contract one through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Although less common, some STDs can spread through contact with wet clothing, damp towels, even toilet seats.
Some STDs succumb easily to antibiotics, but others are incurable, like HIV and herpes.
How common are STDs?
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that in 2017 nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in the U.S., the highest number in recorded history.
Although young patients are most affected by STDs, the recent surge is particularly dramatic for older adults. One study found that between 2014 and 2017, diagnosis rates for herpes simplex, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, hepatitis B, and trichomoniasis jumped by 23% in patients over 60.
Why are more seniors getting STDs?
It's a good question with only anecdotal answers. The Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging suggests the following situations are contributing to the rise of STDs among seniors:
Thanks to medications such as Viagra® and Cialis®, older men need not suffer from erectile dysfunction, an age-related condition that once scotched the sex lives of many seniors.
Gray divorces are on the rise. A Pew Research report based on National Center for Health Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau data found that among U.S. adults 50 and older, the divorce rate has doubled since the 1990s. More divorces mean more people are dating and becoming part of the hooking-up culture, which puts them at risk for STDs.
Less sex education
When today’s seniors were in school, sex education was limited, if it existed at all. Safe-sex education, the result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, became widespread in the 1980s when the current crop of seniors were already married and in middle age. It's likely that they missed the sex education lectures that addressed how to prevent STDs.
If you think you have an STD, or want information on how to prevent one, call the Southern Crescent Women's HealthCare location nearest you today, or book a consultation online.