Are older adults immune to STDs?
You may think, that as you grow older, the risk of getting STDs is comparatively lower. However, this is a common misconception, as age has no correlation with STDs. It is our society’s taboo regarding older adults taking part in sexual intercourse that has given rise to this misconception.
The truth is many older individuals are equally active in their sexual life as their younger counterparts. And as our society becomes more evolved, taboo opinions have been slowly disappearing. In direct correlation with our evolving open-minded society is the rate of STDs. However, this is not the disapproval of having an open mind. It merely indicates a need for awareness regarding STDs in older populations.
Reports of Increasing STD rates among older adults
The CDC reports approximately 2.3 million cases of STDs in 2017 alone. Most of the STDs were cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. Surprisingly, reports also showed a steep rise in STDs among older individuals with people over age 60 accounting for the most frequent in-office visits for STD treatment.
According to another study, just between the years 2014 and 2017, the STD rate among older adults saw a rise of 23%. Whereas in adults over age 13, there was a mere 11% rise in STDs.
Although the majority of the STD burden is still undertaken by younger adults, older adults are increasing their part in the global STD burden. Dr. Janet Pregler, director of the Iris Cantor – UCLA Women’s Health Center has noted: “The heaviest burden of STIs is in younger people, and because of that, we haven’t tracked or studied this in older adults effectively at all.”
The risks seem to be higher in people who take part in same-sex intercourse due to the use of anal and oral routes for intercourse. The increase is “more prevalent in men than women, and especially with men having sex with men,” states Dr. Lisa Granville, professor of geriatrics at the Florida State University College of Medicine. “But everyone who is older is at increased risk.”
What could be the reason behind the increased STD rates?
During the period of the 1960s to 1970s, with the advent of antibiotics people became more carefree regarding sexual activities as the STDs became treatable. Additionally, Birth control pills reduced the risk of unwanted pregnancies. “Suddenly, we had this period of time where there really weren’t sexually transmitted illnesses that could kill you. Certainly, people got herpes and that could be distressing, but in terms of sexually transmitted illness is a life-or-death matter, there was that period of time where it really wasn’t looked at that way,” Pregler said.
People from that era are the older generations now, and thus their sexual prowess can be well understood. People then were unaware of life-threatening STDs such as HIV and assumed STDs to be syphilis or gonorrhea, which could be treated by a simple course of penicillin then. Awareness, STD testing, and education are the keys to aiding the older generations in their fight against STDs.