A recent research has shown that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among 50-90 year olds have doubled in the past ten years.
In an editorial published in the Student BMJ, Rachel von
Simson, medical student at King's College London and Ranjababu Kulasegaram,
consultant genitourinary physician at St
Thomas' Hospital London, discuss research showing that
80% of 50-90 years olds are sexually active.
Statistics show an increase in cases of syphilis, chlamydia
and gonorrhoea in the UK, USA and Canada in 45-64 year olds. There
has also been an increase in cases of HIV with those aged 50 and over
accounting for 20% of adults accessing HIV care, an 82% increase on figures
from 2001. This may however, be down to HIV patients living longer, but new
diagnoses of HIV in the over 50s have doubled between 2000 and 2009.
There has been little research on the reason behind the
increase but it is thought that due to physical changes, older, post-menopausal
women are more vulnerable to STIs. Furthermore, men on erectile dysfunction
drugs are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with an STI within the
first year of usage and in the year before starting the drug.
The authors suggest that GPs should take the opportunity to
discuss safe sex with men seeking erectile dysfunction drugs as they have a
high risk of contracting an STI. Telephone motivational interviewing has also
been found to discourage involvement in unprotected sex.
The authors report that the UK is currently lacking in STI
research in older adults and more needs to be done, but conclude that "doctors
should maintain a low threshold for investigating sexually transmitted
infections in older adults" and should encourage discussions regardless of the