Sexually transmitted diseases cases are quickly rising among people 40 and older, both locally and nationally.
State STD tracking shows that chlamydia and gonorrhea case counts are up over the past five years for adults 45 and up in Ohio. This includes 1,200 new cases of gonorrhea last year for Ohioans 45 to 54, which is double the case count for 2014.
This prompted Public Health to plan a free community forum Tuesday geared toward adults over 40 titled “Age is Not A Condom” to help reinforce that just because a person is older, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be informed and take precautions to protect themselves by engaging in healthy sex behaviors.
“As people live longer and love longer, we want to make sure they are doing it in a healthy way,” said Jerry Mallicoat, Public Health’s LGBTQ Health Initiatives project manager.
Mallicoat said that public health officials often focus their messaging on educating young people about safe sex and sexually transmitted infections.
“Often we focus on the 20 somethings and under, but as people age, they either don’t get messages about prevention and safety or maybe things have changed since they were younger,” he said.
“For example if they get divorced or split up with a long term partner and they are back out in the dating game again, they need to understand the rules of engagement, that they still need to be aware and cautious about how to have safe sex and have a healthy sex life.”
How to attend
Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County is presenting Age is Not a Condom: Sexual Health After Age 40 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday Sept. 17 at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton. The event is free and registrations can be made on the Public Health website at phdmc.org.
About 30 percent of new HIV cases in the Miami Valley are with people age 40 and older. And in 2018, new cases of syphilis in Montgomery County were three times greater than previous several years.
“We had been trending about 15 to 20 new cases a year and then suddenly it jumps to 60 cases just in Montgomery county alone,” he said. “So what you see when you look at the numbers is there is a need to focus on safe sex and healthy sexuality.”
The number of new STD cases has been trending up for years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. A report from this June posted by Cleveland-based Benjamin Rose Rose Institute on Aging said some of the factors contributing to the increase in STDs among older adults includes erectile dysfunction drugs enabling more men to engage in sexual activity throughout their older years; high mid-life divorce rates; older adults being less likely to perceive themselves at risk for contracting STDs; and a lack of safe sex education when some older adults were younger.
Mallicoat said some adults might be embarrassed about talking about sex and STDs with their doctors, but it’s important that people have these health conversations and that physicians proactively bring up the conversation.
The forum will feature a presentation by Ulysses Burley III who will talk about moving beyond stigma into a more sex-positive consciousness as people live and love longer. He will also discuss the social stigma surrounding sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and how health care providers may unknowingly perpetuate that stigma.
“Part of what the event will talk about is ‘How do we adopt a sex positive approach and attitude to our lives that sex is just part of who we are,’” Mallicoat said. “We need to realize that since we are living longer, we are going to be loving longer, so we need to make sure we are informed, educated, aware and safe.”
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