There’s been so much discussion about sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates among young people that it may be easy to forget that sexual infections are not specific to college-age individuals. In fact, people over the age of 50 also need to be informed of the importance of consistently practicing safer sex, as this population is experiencing a rise in STD rates.
An article published in the November/December issue of Medsurg Nursing found that not only are rates of HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, herpes and the human papilloma virus (HPV) rising among Americans older than 50, but doctors don’t seem to be addressing this concern. “Unfortunately, the common misconception still persists that people over 50 are no longer sexually active,” wrote study co-authors Lisa Jeffers and Mary DiBartolo. “As a result, healthcare providers often do not discuss risky sexual behaviors and STD prevention with middle-aged and older adults.” Researchers have come up with many different theories as to why this generation is more sexually active than the previous one. While some believe that it may be due to the prevalence and popularity of erectile dysfunction medication, others suggest it could be the high divorce rates and liberal sexual attitude of the baby boomer generation. The scientists said that, regardless of the reasons, healthcare providers need to step it up when it comes to increasing STD awareness among older populations. This includes informing them of the dangers of various sexual infections and explaining the importance of safer sex. Physicians also need to be sure to offer STD screening to patients over the age of 50, since older individuals are less likely to seek out testing on their own.
Communication is the key to ensuring that individuals remain educated about their sexual health. Doctors need to encourage older patients to be comfortable discussing their sex lives, to reduce STD rates among this population.