Rising STIs and poor sexual health in the over 50s

The sexual health charity FPA is today warning of rising sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates and poor sexual health in groups of men and women aged over 50. This is going unnoticed, says FPA, because despite the over 50s being sexually active and starting new sexual relationships, campaigns and services are only targeted at the young.

Almost 13,000 men and women over the age of 45 were diagnosed with an STI in 2009, double the numbers in 2000. Last year more men over 45 got genital herpes than 16 -19 year old men and over 5,000 men and women over 45 were diagnosed with genital warts in 2009 alone. Chlamydia diagnosis in women has also gone up 95% in nine years. And calls to the FPA helpline have shot up by 30% in just three years from older people worried about their sexual behaviour and STIs. Sexual health services and campaigns, says FPA, must be geared towards this age group and not just young people.

Over 50s, newly single coming out of long-term relationships and dating again are using websites, dating nights and holidays as opportunities to have sex and relationships. But too many, says FPA, are apparently oblivious to the need for safer sex and the importance of condoms. And because this generation is more likely to feel embarrassment, fear and stigma about STIs they’re less likely to seek help or information.

Julie Bentley Chief Executive FPA said “There is very little sexual health information and services for the over 50s, and current campaigns, however good, are exclusively for the young”. Sex is something very personal, we can all find it difficult to talk about and this can be particularly true for older generations.

“Many over 50s, relieved contraception is no longer an issue, forget about using condoms. Others haven’t had to think about using condoms for decades, let alone go into a shop and buy them. Worries about confidentiality stop them going to clinics which tend to be more geared for young people. We often have the over 50s asking our helpline whether they are allowed to attend because of their age.

“We need to do more to encourage the over 50s to access sexual health clinics. Running sessions specifically for the over 50s would make people feel more comfortable about using services” she suggested.

In response to these issues FPA is launching the country’s first ever sexual health campaign for the over 50s ‘The Middle-age Spread (STIs in the over 50s)’ . Posters using original fashion adverts from the 1970s turned into a safer sex message are urging health professionals working in the community to be more proactive about the sexual health needs of the over 50s. The charity is also launching a free booklet People over 50: relationships and sexual health.