Pensioners given sexual health advice as STIs increase
27th September 2012
The thought of anybody who happens to be over the age of about 50 having sex, may be unthinkable to some people, but shock horror, it does happen! In fact due to advancements in healthcare, increasing gym memberships and people starting to look after themselves better compared to recent years, there is a new age of fit, sexually-active over-60-year olds who are giving the younger generation a run for their money. This shift towards a young mentality has prompted one council to launch their first ever sexual health strategy, kicking-off last week and which also happened to fall during Sexual Health Week, which we covered here. It is Croydon Borough Council who is the concerned party, and has now created a ‘sex at 60’ leaflet, warning OAPs about the dangers of casual sex with multiple partners. Labour Councillor Maggie Mansell argued this action was necessary as pensioners are generally more ‘fitter’ and ‘active’ now than ever. When speaking to a local Croydon newspaper, the Councillor said, “The over 60s are fitter and more active than previous generations. They started their sex lives after the pill and before Aids and did not get used to using condoms. The over-60s do not need contraception but they do need modern advice.” She advised the council on the importance of the pamphlet, so that the over-60s are warned that regardless of age, the dangers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are still very high if they engaged in unprotected, casual sex. The need for action may stem from a particular 2010 report released from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), which documented a gradual increase in the number of people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s having sex with new partners from the year 2000. The same report also stated how all five major STIs had seen a rise within older people. In particularly those aged 45 to 64 years of age had seen the biggest increase in herpes, syphilis, chlamydia and genital warts between 2000 and 2009. This same age group had the second largest increase in gonorrhoea, bettered only by the over-65s, which alone proves that everybody can contract an STI; it is not just teens who are at risk like so many assume. In what could empathise how the problem seems to be escalating, the HPA found that cases of syphilis in 45 to 64-year-olds spiralled ten-fold from a mere 52 in 2000, reaching 503 in 2009. In the over-65s, cases of the same STI more than quadrupled from just 7 in 2000 to 32 in 2009. Now the borough’s new sexual health strategy will hopefully bring these figures down. Key figures in the schemes admit whilst the plans were mainly aimed at younger people in the community, provisions would be made to cover all ages. Some of the new plans include widening the provision of condoms through pharmacists for the under-25s and other ‘high-risk’ groups, delivering sexual health drop-in clinics at various colleges, increasing the number of pharmacies providing sexual health services and increasing the number of centres that offer chlamydia screening and free treatment. Tory Councillor Margaret Mead, the cabinet member for adult services and health, commented on the plans for better sexual health, saying, “This strategy is about improving the health and well-being of communities and ensuring residents have the knowledge to make the right choices regarding their sexual health. We also aim to encourage people to change their behaviour for their own personal well-being and for the benefit of making the most effective use of healthcare budgets.” Medical Specialists Pharmacy is not surprised by the actions of Croydon Council. Increasing rates of STIs in older people is a topic we have looked into several times in the past such as earlier this year and even back in 2011. The government needs to tackle this lax attitude as it seems to be that people over the age of 40 seem to think they are immune to picking up an STI. However, it is not just a young person’s game; anyone is at risk! The HPA stats are understandable and we personally have experienced a huge number of patients of a surprising varying age range requesting everything from Clamelle chlamydia test kits, to chlamydia medication Azithromycin, the herpes antiviral medication Valtrex and condoms!