Sexually transmitted infections soar in over 60s - experts

Experts at the Family Planning Association warned of the "undeniable growth" of STIs in older people.
Photo / 123RF
Experts at the Family Planning Association warned of the "undeniable growth" of STIs in older people. Photo / 123RF

Sexually transmitted infections in the over-60s has soared in the last year, as experts claim the baby boom generation rarely use a condom.

New figures published by Public Health England for 2013 reveal diagnoses of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes and genital warts, in those aged over-65, increased 8.2 per cent on the previous year - a total of 1,125 cases.

And in the 45 to 64-year-old group there was an overall increase in diagnoses of 7 per cent from 2012 to 2013 - a total of 16,411 cases.

In total there were 446,253 STIs diagnosed in England last year, a slight decrease from the 448,775 cases diagnosed in 2012.

Chlamydia was the most common STI, making up 47 per cent of all diagnoses - a total of 208,755 cases.

Meanwhile there was a large rise in cases of gonorrhoea, up 15 per cent from 2012, with a total of 29,291 cases recorded in 2013.

Public Health England said young people aged 15 to 24 years still experience the highest rates of STIs, accounting for 63 per cent of chlamydia cases, 54 per cent of genital warts, 42 per cent of genital herpes and 56 per cent of gonorrhoea cases.

However experts at the Family Planning Association warned of the "undeniable growth" of STIs in older people.

FPA's Policy and Parliamentary Manager, Harry Walker, said while many of the baby boom generation, growing up in the 1960s when the contraceptive pill was introduced may have never, or rarely used a condom.

With a rise in the number of older people using dating websites, and enjoying sex later in life, he urged older people to be aware of the dangers of unprotected sex.

He said: "While increases in STI diagnoses can in part be attributed to greater awareness and better testing programmes, there has been an undeniable growth of STIs among older age groups.

"Some of these people will be from the 'baby boom' generation who grew up in the 1960s when the contraceptive pill was introduced and may have never or rarely used condoms.

"And with sexual health messaging often targeted at young people, men and women who come out of long-term relationships might find themselves with very little information and knowledge about STIs.

"We know that many are enjoying a new lease of life through internet dating, and enjoying sex is by no means the preserve of the young.

"While they might not need to worry about the risks of becoming pregnant anymore, they might not think about the other type of protection which is offered by condoms.

"What is particularly worrying is the fact that people over 45 now will have been sexually active around the time of the high-profile and effective condom-use messages of the 1980s and 90s, but perhaps these have been forgotten."

Dr Catherine Lowndes, consultant scientist in PHE's STI surveillance team, said: "Sustained efforts to encourage people to regularly get checked for STIs means we are now finding and treating more infections - which is good news.

"Nevertheless these data show too many people are still getting STIs each year, especially young adults and gay men.

"Investment in promoting good sexual health awareness, contraception and condom use, and STI testing is vital, as is ongoing investment in easy to access sexual health services that meet the needs of local populations.

"Not only will this help bring down STI rates but abortion rates and under 18 conceptions as well."

National guidance recommends local services routinely offer chlamydia screening to young adults but only 15 per cent of young men and 35 per cent of young women were tested in 2013.

Wide variations were seen across the country in the rates of chlamydia testing and diagnoses - with only around a third of local authorities reaching the recommended chlamydia screening levels (2,300 diagnoses per 100,000 young adults per year)

Dr Lowndes, added: "Chlamydia can have serious consequences, including infertility, if it's not treated.

"These data show we need to do more to encourage young adults to ask for testing every year when they attend health services.

"Local areas can look at embedding screening into a variety of settings to make it as easy as possible for this group to get tested.

"Offering a young adult a chlamydia test opens the door to conversations about other important aspects of good sexual health, such as contraception and condom use."

People can significantly reduce their risk of catching or passing on an STI by consistently and correctly using condoms until all partners have had a sexual health screen, by reducing the number of sexual partners, and by avoiding overlapping sexual relationships.

- Daily Mail

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