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Older individuals may not think about their risk of receiving a positive STD test. The problem is generally associated with younger individuals. While teens and young adults do represent the majority of new infections, experts say that seniors should be aware of their risk factors as well, as rates of new infections are rising in this age group.
Why are older adults at risk?
The National Institute on Aging states that many seniors remain sexually active after they have passed child-bearing age. Since the risk of unintended pregnancy is low, many individuals do not think to use a condom. Furthermore, there is a general lack of knowledge among seniors about STDs, as the majority of educational campaigns are aimed at younger people.
How prevalent is the problem?
While STD rates are considerably higher for young people, they have been rising among seniors. The CDC reports that rates of chlamydia have been climbing steadily in the 35-and-older age group since 2006. Six years ago, there were 145 cases per 100,000 population in individuals between the ages of 35 and 39. By 2010, that number had jumped to 187. Numbers rose at similar rates in all age groups over age 40.
Other STDs, including syphilis and gonorrhea have also grown in prevalence among older adults during the course of the last decade. It has grown into a relatively common concern for this age group.
The danger of HIV
Older individuals may face a particularly high risk from HIV. The National Institute on Aging reports that about one-fourth of all U.S. adults living with the condition are over the age of 50. HIV also tends to get diagnosed at a more advanced stage, when it is less treatable in older individuals.
The number of older people living HIV is increasing every year largely due to a lack of education among seniors and inadequate care from doctors. Few physicians consider STDs to be a problem for seniors and are therefore less likely to ask older people about their sexual health or offer STD testing.
How to avoid STDs
National Institute on aging recommends that seniors who plan to be sexually active educate themselves on the issues surrounding STDs. Discussing sexual health with a healthcare provider can also improve treatment.
Finally, practicing safe sex is critical, no matter how old a person is. This includes using a condom every time and asking partners to seek STD testing before engaging in sexual activity.
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