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STDs on the Rise among People 50 and Older

By Belinda Ostrowski, The Benton County Daily Record

July 16, 2006

Thereís one group of people who may not even think about the risk of sexually transmitted diseases: Senior citizens. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, itís one of the fastest growing demographics of those contracting STDs, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. 

Thatís due in part to a lack of education about the dangers of these diseases and a misunderstanding about who is likely to contract them, according to Jane Pecinovsky-Fowler, a co-founder of the National Association on HIV Over Fifty. STDs are not related to morality, as many believe, she said. 

Another factor is that thereís no longer a need for birth control for seniors and many forget that condoms are also used to prevent disease. 

Most older people are first diagnosed with HIV at a late stage of infection and often become ill with AIDS-related complications and die sooner than their younger counterparts. These deaths can be attributed to original misdiagnoses and immune systems that naturally weaken with age, reports Pecinovsky-Fowler. 

In Arkansas, the rate of HIV in people 50 and older increased more than 60 percent between 2004 and 2005, according to a report issued by the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services. 

Additionally, the cases of chlamydia in those over 55 increased by 70 percent between 2003 and 2005. Chlamydia is one of the most common STDs, but many seniors are not familiar with the disease. 

The report also states that these statistics reflect nationwide trends. 
Chlamydia can have devastating effects on women and result in pelvic inflammatory disease, which may produce only vague symptoms and go unnoticed until more severe problems develop, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

Other STDs can have more serious consequences for women as well. Physiologically, women are more susceptible to these diseases and symptoms are not as easily detected. 

Men should not believe they are immune to STDs, however, according to the National Institutes of Health. Anyone having sex at any age is susceptible to STDs. These diseases include herpes, HIV, hepatitis B, gonorrhea and syphilis. 

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