Gov't report debunks old myth: "Sex stops after age 50"
By Chris Levister –
When we think of HIV most people conjure up images about its ravages on young men and women; on the gay and transgender populations; on the homeless and the intravenous drug user. They seldom think about HIV and senior citizens.
The notion is that with age comes wisdom, but a comprehensive and perhaps disturbing report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta debunks the long-held belief that people over 50 are wiser and more cautious when it comes to sex, as the rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS, is on the upswing among the mature crowd.
Debunking the myth that sex stops after age 50, health experts contend that the mature set is more sexually active now than in past generations.
Unfortunately, the common misconception still persists that people over 50 are no longer sexually active and therefore aren't at risk for HIV," write Lisa Jeffers and Mary DiBartolo, registered nurses and co-authors of an article in the medical journal MEDSURG.
As a result, health care providers often do not discuss risky sexual behavior and STD prevention with middle-aged and older adults," they say.
Experts say Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact studies from the early 1990s provided data that proved sexual desire does not wane after the age of 50. Experts report that more than half of persons over 50 are having sex a couple times each month. Unfortunately, knowledge of safer sex practices among seniors is much less than that of persons in their late teens and early twenties. This combination of facts explains in part why the HIV population among seniors continues to grow.
The belief that IV drug users are younger adults couldn't be farther from the truth. The consensus used to be that IV drug users out grew their addiction, either by getting treatment or dying.
Actually the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported a trend of heroin use starting much later in life.
HIV among adults over 50 is not a new phenomena. Since the early 80's, HIV in persons older than 50 have accounted for about 10 percent of all cases. What has changed is the mode of transmission.
In the early years of the HIV epidemic, blood transfusion was the major transmission mode among the senior population.
Today, heterosexual contact and needle sharing among IV drug users older than 50 are the main causes of HIV infection in our seniors. The figures are staggering.
Heterosexual transmission in men over 50 is up 94 percent and the rate has doubled in women since 1991. And while prevention and education dollars are concentrated toward young adult populations, seniors are not getting safer sex education and continue to get HIV infected.
The CDC study, adds credence to the idea that 50 is the new 30, and older people are throwing caution to the wind when it comes to activity in the bedroom.
What no one talks about is HIV and the older adult. The CDC says it's no wonder that when you talk to senior citizens, they feel HIV is not a risk to them.
The truth of the matter is that HIV surveillance shows that 11 percent of all new AIDS cases are in people over the age of 50.
Statistics also show that new AIDS cases rose faster in the over 50 population than in people under 40.
According to the CDC's study, HIV/AIDS infection rates in the over-50 crowd increased from 17 percent to 24 percent in 2005.
Other STDs with signi ficant increases included syphilis, 4 percent to 4.8 percent; chlamydia, 33.4 percent to 37 percent; and gonorrhea, 40.9 percent to 45.1 percent.
The increase is due to the advent of popular erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra and hormone replacement therapy. Add to the mix a much more liberal attitude about sex from baby boomers-including dating people much older or younger and the popularity of online dating services-and the jump in the rate of STDs among older folks and the need for precaution and preventative methods becomes clear.
Health care experts said initiatives must be developed to assist older adults in coping with an STD. Additionally, seeking the services of national and respected senior organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is another effective way for older Americans to deal with the sexual revolution.
An est imated 56,300 Americans are newly infected with HIV (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus that causes AIDS) each year, and 1.1 million Americans live with HIV/AIDS. It is estimated that 21 percent of HIV-positive people don’t know they are infected and many did not know they were at risk of contracting the virus.
People of color continue to be at a disproportionate risk for HIV infection. Nearly half of all new infections, 45 percent, were among African Americans, who account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population. Hispanic Americans account for 17 percent of new infections, but only comprise about 15 percent of the U.S. population.
According to the County of San Bernardino Department of Public Health 2010 Morbidity Report, African Americans and Hispanic Americans account for just over half of the County’s population and outnumber any other ethnic group impacted by HIV. Together, they account for approximately six out of 10 of those reported to be living with HIV/AIDS.
“It is important to remember that HIV is transmitted primarily by unprotected sexual behavior and sharing needles for drug use,” said Dr. Maxwell Ohikhuare, Health Officer, San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. “Testing is key to HIV/AIDS prevent ion, treat - ment, and care.”
HIV/AIDS now ranks as the third leading cause of death for African Americans and fifth leading cause of death for male and female Hispanic Americans, ages 35 to 44. “Early detection is extremely important for linking people who are HIV positive to medical care, reducing the mortality rate and greatly improving quality of life,” noted Dr. Ohikhuare.
Rapid and Standard HIV Antibody testing is available through the AIDS program at the San Bernardino County Public Health Clinic located at 799 East Rialto Avenue in the city of San Bernardino. Testing is offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Standard HIV Antibody testing is offered by appointment.
To make an appointment, call (800) 722-4777.
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