We all know by now that the rate of sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, among older individuals is growing rapidly. Although this is often fodder for radio DJs and late-night hosts, it is rarely discussed and examined in an appropriate way. Just the fact that it’s considered to be a “joke” by the younger population is a testament to how dismissive our culture is to older people’s sexuality.
Obviously, STDs are no laughing matter, especially to those who are affected by them. According to the Center for Disease Control, the rate of HIV in those age 50 and over is growing much faster than that of people 40 and under. There are several reasons for this:
1) Since older women produce less vaginal lubricant than younger women, their vaginal walls are more susceptible to microscopic tears, which makes it easier for diseases to be transmitted.
2) Older individuals are less likely to be tested for STDs, which means they have more opportunity to spread the diseases before they are treated.
3) Condom use was not as widespread in the 60+ generation, making their function and necessity more elusive to this group.
4) As we age, our immune system gets progressively weaker, increasing the chance of acquiring a disease.
As a sexually active woman, it is your responsibility to understand these risks when choosing partners. One in five Americans have at one time been infected with an STD, and a large number of those infected don’t even know they are carrying it (the exact percentage is difficult to determine). So even if your partner seems like an unlikely candidate for an STD, he or she could transmit disease unknowingly.
You would be hard-pressed to find a young person who doesn’t use a condom during each and every sexual encounter. Increased knowledge about the ways STDs can be spread has led to their continued use and common practice.