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Sexually transmitted infections are out there and more widespread than ever.
If you’re between the ages of 40 and 59, chances are that your teen and university-aged kids—or nephews and nieces—know more about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than you do… which means they’re also taking more steps to prevent them.
Unfortunately, STIs are on the rise in midlife Canadians. According to 2015 stats from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the reported rate of Chlamydia jumped a whopping 153 percent from 2003 to 2012, while the proportion of HIV cases increased from 15 percent in 2009 to 21.9% in 2014. Cases of genital herpes are also growing.
Scary stuff, right?
The increase in STIs in the group of Canadians aged 40 to 59 comes down to a few things, says Robin Milhausen, Ph.D., University of Guelph.
1. It’s easier than ever to find a sexual partner. Thanks to online dating and apps such as Tinder and Bumble, “any one of us can go out on the street with a smart phone and probably find a sex partner within five minutes,” says Milhausen. “The speed at which we can find partners has greatly increased over the last 10 years.”
2. Older adults are having more sex than ever before. “For decades and decades, we’ve associate sex with young, hot bodies,” says Milhausen. “Sexuality that doesn’t fit into that category has been stigmatized. But we’re seeing a normalizing of sexual behavior in people in their forties, fifties, sixties and beyond (Grace and Frankie on Netflix, anyone?). Just because your spouse passes away or you get a divorce, doesn’t mean that the sexual part of your life is over.”
3. Very few people wear condoms. People use condoms to prevent pregnancy. When pregnancy is no longer an issue, condom use goes way down. According the Trojan/SIECCAN Sexual Health at Midlife Study, 65 percent of single men and 73 percent of single women did not use a condom last time they had intercourse.
4. No one’s worried about contracting an STI. Many STIs are invisible and very few people will publicly admit to having an STI, so contraction seems rare—even though it’s super common. In the Trojan/SIECCAN study, 56 percent of single men and 61 percent of single women between the ages of 40 and 59 said they were “not very concerned” or “not at all concerned” about contracting an STI.
5. Tests are more sensitive. It’s also true that the technology behind STI testing is better than ever before, so more cases may be popping up because the tests can better scan for infections.
Couples over 40 may not have to worry about pregnancy due to menopause or a vasectomy, but STIs don’t discriminate according to age or fertility. Many STIs don’t have visible symptoms, but can still carry long-term health effects such as inflammation and chronic pelvic pain.
The bottom line: Wear a condom.
“There have never been more shapes, more sizes, more colours, more flavours, more textures of condoms—ever!” says Milhausen. Simply find the one that works for you and add a little lube. “Lubricant makes sex way better, and sex with condoms way better,” says Milhausen. “Put a few drops of water-based lube on the inside of the condom and on the outside of the condom. It will help the condom slide around on the penis, making it less prone to friction and breakage, and it also enhances pleasure.”
If you’re going to pass along one thing this month, make sure it’s this article—not an STI.
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