FRISKY FIFTIES: STIs double in senior population
FRISKY teens are constantly cautioned with the 'no glove, no love' rule but perhaps it's the older generations that really need to prick up their ears.
Data provided by Queensland Health has shown the rate of sexually transmitted diseases in Queenslanders over 50 has doubled in the past four years, marking the biggest jump among statistical age groups.
While safe sex campaigns seem to be rubbing off on people under 20 with a steady decline in STI notifications, the number of cases in people over 50 rose from 541 to 1078 over the last four years .
A spokesperson from the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service said regional statistics for STIs are in line with increasing state-wide trends.
Condamine Medical Centre doctor Bronwyn Bryant said risky sexual activity may be becoming more prevalent in older populations, but sexual health was still perceived as a 'young person's' issue.
"People in that (50 plus) age category are now healthier and more vital than they used to be, and those who are single or having relationship breakdowns are going out and being more active," she said.
"They're travelling and being more social and as a result there is an increase in risk taking behaviour."
Dr Bryant who has an interest in sexual health said protection wasn't on the brain for people over 50.
"Women have finished having their children by that age and they are not at risk of getting pregnant so contraception is not something they are thinking about as much," she said.
Reluctance to wear a condom could also contribute to the sticky statistics.
"If they didn't grow up using condoms and got married quite young, they may never have used condoms and may not be comfortable wearing them," Dr Bryant said.
Dr Bryant said there was a lack of education and awareness about the risks of STIs in the over 50s population.
"There's a big gap from education. It wasn't until the AIDS crisis in the 80s that protection against STIS really came to the forefront so a lot of people from the baby boomer generations are not properly educated on the risks and the infections that are out there," she said.
Figures show that while cases of chlamydia in the Darling Downs region declined over a four year period, instances of gonorrhoea and syphilis more than doubled.
A particular concerns is older women who had not been vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) which can lead to cervical cancer and genital warts.
Dr Bryant said a reluctance to talk about sex was a barrier to creating awareness about the issue.
"People might feel a bit uncomfortable talking about their sexual health when they are older and admitting it is an activity they are engaging in now," she said.
"The perception is sexual health clinics are something young people go to, not older adults."
But diseases don't discriminate, and older people are just as much at risk of contracting an STI.
Dr Bryant said increasing awareness and changing stigma was an important step forward.
"We need to make people aware that these infections are out there and regardless of their age they can still catch them.
"I would encourage them to talk to their doctor and know they don't need to go to a sexual health clinic, they can simply talk to their GP.
A spokesperson from the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service said women could also make an appointment with the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service's mobile women's health nurse, Kathryn Anning, who visits the Southern Downs region regularly.
And of course, don't forget to cover up before you lover up.
"Wear a condom. Barrier protection is the only way to prevent an STI."