Safer sex warnings should not only be directed at teens and younger Americans, but to those of us in the AARP crowd as well.
Americans over 50 are sexually active and many factors account for this, including divorce, the advent of prescriptions for erectile dysfunction, and an increased life expectancy.
And with sexual activity can come sexually transmitted diseases. Unfortunately, age is no protection against STDs. Many older adults assume that because they aren’t regularly practicing high risk behaviors such as IV drug use or sex with multiple partners, they are protected.
Older men and women tend to believe they are immune from “all of that,” speaking euphemistically. But it is that kind of thinking that is leading to an increase in STD infections—everything from herpes to HIV.
HIV/AIDS is rapidly spreading among men and women over 50. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends routine HIV/AIDS testing for all Americans ages 13 to 64. Dr. John G. Bartlett, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, sees the new guidelines as a “call to action that the test will be offered on a more regular basis.”
And some experts, including Dr. Veronica Miller, Director of the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research at George Washington University Medical Center, even feel HIV tests should be as “routine as a flu shot.”
The CDC estimates that those over 50 account for 15% of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses and 24% of those living with HIV/AIDS in this country.
A quarter of a million people living with HIV are unaware of their infection status and are consequently not seeking help for themselves, and may not be ensuring protection from infection for their sexual partners.
Healthcare providers need to take note of the increasing risk of STD infections in their older patients, and emphasize testing and sex education at every opportunity.