Do single Baby Boomers have a double standard, one for their children and grandchildren and another for themselves? Do you tell them to practice safe sex and then get caught up in the moment or are too embarrassed or afraid of losing your partner to insist upon using a condom and getting tested for STDs.
A sexually transmitted disease (STD), also known as sexually transmitted infection (STI) and venereal disease (VD), is usually passed from one person to another through vaginal, anal or oral sex. This doesn’t mean sex is the only way STDs can be transmitted. Depending on the STD, and there are over 20, the infection may also be transmitted through shared needles, blood transfusions, non-sexual skin-to-skin contact, shared bedding or towels just to name a few. Common STD symptoms include rashes, pain during sex or urination, abnormal discharge, sores, bumps, or blisters or may have no symptoms. Some can lie dormant for years, according to the Mayo Clinic, and symptoms are so common many people have no idea they’re infected. They may pass it on to partners without knowing it and may suffer internal damage while the STD remains untreated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), STDs such as untreated syphilis, HIV, Hepatitis, and Human Papilloma Virus can have severe consequences. Even common diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause problems if undiagnosed for long periods of time. STDs can cause infertility, certain types of cancer, serious whole-body illness and death. For more information on this go to the Sexually Transmitted Diseases Learning Center at http://healthtools.aarp.org/learning-center/featured/sexually-transmitted-diseases?lcStart=1.
Eric Nagourney writing in the New York Times asked the question “Why Are Boomers Getting S.T.D.s?”, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/booming/baby-boomers-at-risk-for-sexually-transmitted-disease.html?_r=1. He reported that in 2012 in the medical journal Student BMJ, researchers noted a rise in the number of adults over 50 seeking treatment for STDs including the virus that causes AIDS. In 2011, the most recent numbers available, the CDC identified in people 45-64 years of age over 12,000 cases of gonorrhea, about 2,600 cases of syphilis and more than 22,000 cases of chlamydia.
All Baby boomers need to be aware of physical changes that may increase the risk of infection. As women age, the Student BMJ researchers noted, the lining of the vagina thins, vaginal pH changes and there can be less lubrication so tiny abrasions which cause entry points for viruses are more likely. Age tends to make people more susceptible to disease since our immune systems weaken. Other aging-related health issues which can complicate matters are heart disease, liver damage or diabetes said Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S in his 2014 article for Psychology Today, “Baby Boomers Gone Wild! Seniors and STDs: Why are the numbers of STDs skyrocketing in seniors?” at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-and-sex-in-the-digital-age/201403/baby-boomers-gone-wild-seniors-and-stds. Since STDs often go untreated, the odds of passing them along to another unsuspecting soul increase. Add to this that the body is quietly fighting an STD so opportunistic infections can attack and/or worsen. Finally, when a single Baby Boomer visits their healthcare professional with possible age-typical aches and pains a test for STD is often not ordered even if the patient says they’re sexually active. Most insurance and Medicare offer free STD screenings and low-cost treatment, but only about 5% of those eligible chose to utilize it.
STD rates are rising for seniors in the US and the UK. This increase is more prevalent in areas with retirement communities. For example, Arizona’s Pima and Maricopa counties, reported cases of syphilis and chlamydia rose 87% from 2005 to 2009 for ages 55 and older. Central Florida saw a 71% increase during that time and South Florida a 60% rise. It’s doubtful this number has decreased since publicity warning people of the dangers hasn’t increased. The frat house and swinging single set have gone back to their old habits, but now since pregnancy isn’t an issue they forget about practicing safe sex.
With the availability of Erectile Dysfunction Medications and Hormone Replacement for women, there’s no reason why single Baby Boomers can’t enjoy sex for many years. After all, there are many benefits to sex besides the obvious. In “Baby Boomers, Sex and STDs”, Dr. Sharon Orrange MD at https://www.sharecare.com/health/sex-and-relationships/article/sexually-transmitted-diseases-and-baby-boomers writes, “Sex can help relieve stress, boosts immunity, releases the brain’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins, increases self-esteem and, let’s face it, can just plain feel good. In men, it also improves prostate health.” Seventy-one percent of men and over 50% of women report being sexually active. If you’re in this group, more power to you, but remember to be safe. Men often assert their preferences in the bedroom and want to forego condoms. Condoms are still the best line of defense for preventing STDs. You also need to go on the offense and tell your partner that you both need to be tested. It may not be the perfect date, but you could go together to get the tests. You shouldn’t have to be reminded that if your partner and you aren’t monogamous no amount of testing will protect you. Educate not just your children and grandchildren, but your same age friends about the repercussions of their risky behavior.
In my next blog, I’ll tackle two of the most dangerous STDs, HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. They’re often not considered by our generation as a threat, but they can have devastating consequences and are more prevalent than we like to think.
Continue the adventure safely!