If you’re thinking that sexually transmitted diseases/infections are for the young, you’d be wrong. STD/STIs can affect anyone of any age and any sexual orientation. April is STI/STD Awareness month and the CDC and American Sexual Health Association want you to get the facts and practice safe sex.
When we talk sexually transmitted infections we’re talking genital herpes, genital warts, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and HIV. And the CDC says that 20 million people are infected with a STI every year. If you’re single or in a non-monogamous relationship you need to be particularly alert to this and know how to protect yourself.
Unfortunately most of the available information is geared to teens and young women. There are few articles written specifically for older women. There are no real differences in approach, rather the overall message has traditionally focused on young adults. Our susceptibility to STIs is not based on age but on our sexual practices and sexual partners.
What can you do to decrease your risks of contracting a STI/STD?
- The first thing you should do is get tested. And, according to the office of Women’s Health, ” Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, taking steps to protect yourself is easier than ever. Most insurers must cover STI screening, counseling, and vaccination services at no cost to you, even if you haven’t met your yearly deductible.”
- Use condoms. Condoms for men, dental dams for women can stop the spread of most sexually transmitted infections. Herpes is an exception because lesions might not be on areas covered by the condom. It’s best to refrain from sexual contact during times when the virus is active. (Herpes fact sheet below)
- Talk to your partners. Communication is important when you’re in a new relationship or when one or both partners are not monogamous. If you can’t imagine talking to a partner or lover about protection ask yourself if you’re really ready for sex with this person. I’ve shared a couple of links below that might help you start the conversation.
Protecting yourself from a sexually transmitted disease is important. Getting a blood test should become a routine part of your sexual health practices. Talk to loved ones about the need for testing. Have a single parent in a nursing home? Ask staff if they are testing patients and have done any education for staff on STDs. Talk to your friends, and your sons and daughters about this–or at least direct them to helpful information.
This is serious stuff. I get tested! You should too.
- Genital Herpes Fact Sheet
- Understanding the Risks of Sexually Transmitted Diseases for Older Adults
- The Conversation to Have Before You Get Into Bed
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