24 Jun Understanding the Risks of Sexually Transmitted Diseases for Older Adults
Understanding the risks of sexually transmitted diseases is necessary if you’re interested in dating and sex. The two go hand in hand whether you’re 20 or 50, and many of the issues remain the same. Eventually the topic of having sex comes up and hopefully the conversation includes the topic of STDs, sexually transmitted diseases. In a nutshell a STD (sexually transmitted disease) is an infection passed from one person to another during sexual activity. This link to Planned Parenthood offers a simple explanation of the types of STDs and symptoms. Or if you prefer, the CDC page on STDs.
For the last 20 or more years we’ve considered HIV the big disease to worry about and worth testing for. That still remains the case, but research is showing an increase in other STDs like chlamydia, herpes, and gonorrhea. A study released yesterday in HealthDay News, cites a Dutch study of ‘swingers’. These individuals, average age 43, had a higher rate of chlamydia and gonorrhea than prostitutes. One in nine men claimed to be a swinger and of that population 55% of them had a STD.
OK, so they’re Dutch and they claim to be swingers- heterosexuals who engage in partner swapping or frequent sex clubs. Simplifying the definition as men and women who have multiple sex partners, we have to assume that these rates might be relevant to adults in our local dating pools. How do you know if the person on your online dating site has one of these diseases? How comfortable are you asking them to get tested for STDs?
According to the CDC, “ The cumulative estimated number of diagnoses of AIDS through 2007 in the United States and dependent areas was 1,051,875. Of these, 1,018,428 were diagnosed in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and 32,051 were diagnosed in the dependent areas. In the 50 states and the District of Columbia, adult and adolescent AIDS cases totaled 1,009,220810,676 cases in males and 198,544 cases in females, and 9,209 cases estimated in children under age 13 years. “
The CDC report notes that of the HIV incidences reported that 53% are estimated to have occurred in homosexual or bi-sexual men. This about HIV incidences and the above statistics reference AIDS, but the numbers are meant to illustrate for you that a significant of heterosexual individuals out there have HIV or AIDS.
The first step is to make ourselves aware of the risks and unknown elements involved in dating, regardless of age. Talking to your gynecologist about your level of sexual activity is a good place to start, he or she can advise you on testing. Having said that, know that many doctors are not comfortable talking about sex and less comfortable acknowledging sexual activity among older adults. You will need to bring up the topic yourself and be prepared to ask questions, don’t expect your doctor to initiate the conversation. And, if she does, consider yourself lucky.
The next step is to have a conversation with the man or woman you’re dating. In my next post I’ll talk about tips for discussing the issue of STDs with a potential partner.
note: the trend is moving away from STD to the use of the term STI, or sexually transmitted infections.