According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), April is STD Awareness Month. You may not think this applies to you, if you’re in the older demographic, but it applies to everyone. Although STDs are commonly associated with a younger generation that is no longer the case. Being informed about sexually transmitted diseases is essential for a healthy sex life, and what you read may surprise you.
What are examples of a STD?
STDs, as the name shows, are diseases that are sexually transmitted. Here are a few of the more common and well known:
Sexually transmitted diseases or STDs are becoming more prevalent in seniors. Hence, STD awareness is very important in order to prevent infection and to increase the likelihood of proper and quick treatment.
Here are some demographics we’ve gathered from reports released by CDC and AARP:
- Syphilis cases among adults between 45 and 65 years old went up from around 900 cases in 2000 to nearly about 2,550 cases in 2010; while chlamydia cases almost tripled the numbers from 6,700 in 2000 to 19,600 in 2010.
- In Central Florida where there are large communities of retirees, syphilis and chlamydia cases went up by 71% among adults 55 and older; while 60% increase of these cases were seen in South Florida.
- Riverside County, California saw a 50% spike of STI (sexually transmitted infection) cases in the same age group.
- Reported cases of syphilis in the 55-64 age group increased 70% and chlamydia cases rose by 27% between 2005 and 2009.
Learning about STDs is the best way to fight against them and is one of the keys to achieving overall health. Even if you feel 101% sure there’s no way you will ever get this disease, at least help spread STD awareness. Keeping your fellow seniors informed would be a huge help to combat against this global health problem.
Important Things about STDs that You Should Know About
STDs can show NO signs or symptoms.
STDs can be asymptomatic, which means there is no showing of symptoms over a long period of time. What does this suggest? First, this increases the risk of STDs being spread to others. Second, an STD test won’t likely make it to your to-do list during a visit to your physician. You don’t immediately feel or see the symptoms, so you may not feel the urgency to get tested. Failure to do this when you’ve contracted an STD could leave the infection untreated for many years. This could lead to serious health complications.
Seniors are susceptible to STDs and other infections.
As you grow older, your immune system tends to weaken, so you become more prone to diseases and infections. In the same way that STDs are asymptomatic and could go untreated, they could help worsen other existing medical conditions. Older women, for instance, have decreasing estrogen levels that bring about many different physiological changes. This decrease causes women to become more prone to viral infection.
Factors for the rising number of STD cases in seniors:
Sexual Illiteracy: Lack of formal sex education
In the 1980’s HIV and AIDS were discovered. Since that period, education on safe sex and STD prevention has been actively reinforced. Around that time, the (now) seniors were then in their middle ages and sex education was typically focused on the younger generation. Older adults didn’t receive the proper education.
Since our current seniors probably did not get sufficient information about safe sex, condom use is low, especially in that age group. Aside from the AARP survey mentioned above, the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) reported that condom use was lowest in men aged 45 and above, with condoms being used 28% of the time compared to men in the 18 to 39 age group who used condoms at least 50% of the time. See actual graph here.
Additionally, the unavailability and inaccessibility of resources on sex education among the older adult population has led to a reluctance to discuss their sex lives with partners and physicians. This has unfortunately created a stigma associated with STDs which can result in feelings of shame, anger, fear, or guilt.
Opportunity: Rise of divorce rates and online dating
The rise of divorced older adults has somewhat paved the way to the popularity of online dating. This gives seniors the opportunity to engage in relationships (and ultimately sex) and develop an open attitude towards sex, without diving into the sexual history or background of the person they’re dating.
Ability: Medications for erectile dysfunction
The advent of medications for erectile dysfunction (e.g. Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis) has become a game changer with regard to the sexual behavior or practices among older men. Obviously, these sex-enhancing drugs have rather given older men the ability to engage in sex despite their age or their physical challenges. A CDC report suggests that STD cases in men have increased by 50% since 1996. In the same manner, the existence of progesterone and estrogen creams has enabled women to become more sexually spirited. Testosterone-replacement medications have as well accelerated sex drive in both men and women.
In a 2010 study to examine the association between STD and ED (erectile dysfunction) drugs, the researchers found out that users of ED medications have higher rates of STD. Hence, they further suggested that men using these drugs should learn more about safe sexual practices and be closely monitored for STDs.
STD Awareness: What You Can Do
Older adults should be getting all the basic information about STDs, their nature, how they are transmitted, ways to prevent them, their effects, how they’re diagnosed, and how they can be treated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a good place to start.
Get yourself tested.
Whether you suspect you have STD’s or not, get tested. STD tests are generally quick and simple. Medicare now includes free STD screenings. Treatment is inexpensive so there should be a positive outcome. The CDC has also provided a website to find testing centers in your area.
Practice safe sex.
Abstinence is the best way to avoid contracting STDs. However, there are different approaches to take to prevent STDs, even when you are sexually active. The use of a condom during sexual intercourse is imperative to reduce your risk of contracting any STD. Having one sexual partner at a time or at least reducing the number of your sexual partners can also reduce your risk.
STDs affect all people of all races and ages. The first step to protecting your health is to raise your awareness. Regularly testing for STDs, especially when you are sexually active, can increase your chances of getting treated if you test positive for the disease.
One a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate your awareness about STDs? Please tell us your stories in the comments below.