Rise of STD in Older Generation; A New Cause for Concern?

Statistics coming from data collection centers across the United States has revealed an emerging trend, albeit a disturbing one. The rate of sexually transmitted diseases among the elderly population is currently on the rise. Already, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention has raised the red flag, mandating that this dangerous trend must be confronted now.

While attention has long been focused on the younger generation in terms of awareness, enlightenment and studies on how to have safe sex and prevent the transmission of STD’s, the Baby Boomers or population demography of those aged 45 and above, has gone largely unnoticed for quite a long time now.  However, the situation on ground suggests that urgent attention must be paid to the older generation before things goes completely out of control.

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Before you wave the report aside as another exaggerated alarm by the CDC, you may take a moment to consider the following statistics.

82,938 cases of Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were found among Americans aged 45 and above in 2016, a twenty percent rise over 2015 figures and in conformity with an already established trend that became noticeable since 2012. Granted that rates of new STD infection is at its zenith among 15 to 24 age group segment, the senior citizens segment had more cases than the rest of the population.

Diagnosis rates between 2014 and 2017, revealed that gonorrhea, Chlamydia, herpes simplex, hepatitis B, and trichomoniasis increased by 23 percent among individuals of age 60 and above.

43,409 cases of Chlamydia were recorded among people aged 45 and above in 2016, against 38,185 that were recorded in 2015, while 26,405 was recorded in 2012.

In 2016, 33,879 cases of gonorrhea were recorded among the elderly population, a significant increase over the 26,005 cases recorded in 2015 while only 16,257 was recorded in 2012.

The story remains similar with syphilis, as 5,650 cases were recorded within the same age bracket in 2016, against 4,848 that were recorded in 2015, while only 3,176 cases were recorded in 2012.

Contributory Factors

Questions have been asked about what could be causing the increase in STD among the senior citizens, but the answers become evident when we critically examine recent and not so recent activities surrounding different population segments and their attitude towards sex.

The baby boomers became sexually active at a period when radical changes were being made in medicine, especially in the area of unwanted pregnancy prevention through pills and significant improvement in the treatment of sexually transmitted infections. Therefore, they had little motivation towards the use of condoms, and this situation remained constant until HIV/AIDS came into the scene.

The implication of this is that baby boomers were at liberty to have sexual adventures in an unprecedented way, without recourse to any of the risks the earlier generations had to contend with. A good number of them had more than one sex partner during their youth, and before settling down in marriage. However, after a long period of time, with a significant number of them having lost their partners through death or divorce, are now returning to their old ways of little or no restriction towards sex. This school of thought received a credible backing when a study conducted at the Indiana University revealed that the older generation; those aged 60 and above recorded the least percentage of condom use than any other age bracket. In addition, many of them have this erroneous belief that people of their age are scarcely at risk. To worsen the situation, sexually transmitted infections can live in a host for long spells of time before showing symptoms, and even when they do, they are sometimes mistaken as normal signs that occur in older people and thus may not be treated or prevented from infecting others.

It is important to emphasize that Syphilis, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia among other STI’s can be eliminated through the use of antibiotics, however when left untreated for long periods of time, they could result to more serious health issues.

How Do We Get Out Of This Quagmire?

Studies have shown that enlightenment and more education can play a huge role in reversing this ugly trend. It is standard practice to ask young people series of questions as well as screening in order to ascertain how best to follow-up on their treatment but same procedure is scarcely adhered to when dealing with senior citizens.

Healthcare experts have recommended that same screening that involves asking questions about a patient’s sexual activity as applicable to young people should equally be extended to the senior citizens.

The focus should no longer be on young people alone as statistics have now proven that both the young and the old are at risk.