Guest Blog: Did you know? Older adults at serious risk for STDs

April is National STD Awareness Month, an annual occurrence to raise public awareness about the impact of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and the importance of preventing, testing for and treating STDs.  Since 2009, Planned Parenthood has supported National STD Awareness Month as a partner in the GYT (Get Yourself Tested) Campaign to promote STD prevention and testing among young people.  However, age offers no protection against STDs.  Rates of STDs have doubled for people in their 50s, 60s and 70s over the past decade, and safe sex awareness among older adults and its promotion is lacking, according to a recent report in the Student British Medical Journal.

According to the CDC, there were 885 reported cases of syphilis in 45 to 64 year olds in 2000, while in 2010, there were more than 2,500 reported cases.  In 2000, there were 6,700 cases of chlamydia in this age group, and the number skyrocketed to more than 19,000 by 2010.  Researchers say it’s hard to know exactly why STD rates are on the rise among older people, mostly because there’s been so little research on the sex lives of older adults.  Biological changes and the popularity of drugs like Viagra may be contributing to the rise.  For example, postmenopausal changes to vaginal tissue, such as decreased lubrication, make older women more vulnerable to infections.  In addition, older adults are less likely to use condoms because they may not view STDs as a risk.

What can you do? No matter your age, get tested. Visit the Family Planning Advocates website to find a family planning health center near you.

-M. Tracey Brooks, President & CEO of Family Planning Advocates, 4/4/12