Critical Topics, General Articles

Rise in STI’s Among Adults 55+

SIECUS isn’t slowing down at 60 and neither are sexually active older adults.

by Kojo Aurelien, SIECUS Communications Intern

A 2018 survey found that “40% of people ages 65 to 80 are sexually active.” With older adults continuing to engage in sex at a high rate, it is critical that we understand and address the stark increase we are seeing in STIs among adults 55 and older.

Sex doesn’t end at a specific age, in fact, it continues even into nursing homes. Realizing and acknowledging the elderly still have sex is the first step to understanding responding to the health needs of older adults. For instance, associate professor Matthew Lee Smith at the Texas A&M School of Public Health explained how women’s greater life expectancy can often contribute to having multiple partners and sharing of partners in nursing home settings.

Sex education plays a pivotal role in curbing this rise in STIs. Not only can quality sex education today prevent similar outcomes in the future, it can keep everyone informed and encourage necessary conversations between all age demographics. The assumption that older adults are not having sex or do not need education on safe sex and STI prevention simply because of their age is wrong. Sexual decision-making is as much, if not more, tied to education than experience. That should not be taken for granted, especially given the lack of sex education available to today’s seniors in past decades.

We need to have conversations about postmenopause and erectile dysfunction and a myriad of other things that affirm the sexual activeness of older adults. It is deeply humanizing to be acknowledged in that way and this openness creates avenues to discuss the landscape of safe sex and sexual health for adults experiencing their bodies changing.

But this trend is not limited to older people or just the United States. ABC News detailed a report by the WHO demonstrating that chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis especially, are on the rise globally. The data suggests this spike is due to a lack of screening and access to care, among other factors.

Education plays a significant role and must be a part of the solution. As Professor Justyna Kowalska at the Medical University of Warsaw put it, “We talk about smoking, we talk about diet, exercise, so many things, and not about sex at all,”. So as STIs are also rising among youth, let’s talk about sex and keep everyone safe.

In the United States alone, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have more than doubled among people ages 55 and up. Overall, the CDC reports a 17% rise in syphilis cases. REAHYA is needed now more than ever.

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