Can I get an STD if I’m over 65?
This article was updated on: 09/15/2018
What is an STD?
Sexually transmitted diseases, also called STDs, sexually transmitted infections, STIs, or venereal disease, are passed from one person to another through sexual contact, according the National Institute of Health (NIH). STDs are caused by bacteria and viruses as well as parasites and yeast. There are more than 20 different types of STDs, reports the NIH. These include: chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, HIV/AIDS, HPV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), STDs can cause pain, abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina, bleeding, a burning sensation when urinating, sores and other symptoms. An HIV infection can cause flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, fatigue and chills, according to HIV.gov.
Seniors and STDs: am I Immune to STDs after a certain age?
The short answer is no. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young people age 15-24 acquire half of all new STD infections despite comprising just over a quarter of the sexually active population. However, the 65+ demographic is not immune. In a report on sexually transmitted disease surveillance in 2015, the CDC reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in people 65 and older. The conclusion from the CDC data is that STD prevalence decreases, but does not disappear, after age 24 and up past the age 65.
In 2013, the CDC also reported that over 25% of the people living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV in the United States were 55 and older. This meant that over 300,000 HIV infections were in people 55 and older. In 2013, 6% of the diagnosed cases of HIV were in people aged 65 and older.
Seniors and sex: how do I prevent STDS after 65?
The methods to help prevent STDs are generally the same for all ages. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the correct usage of a latex condom greatly reduces the risk of catching or spreading STDs. Younger people may use condoms as a form of birth control to prevent pregnancy as well as STDs. People in their 60s may not be concerned about pregnancy since the average woman has reached menopause by her early 50s. However, older people who may not be concerned with pregnancy can still use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections. According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior by Indiana University, people 61 and over only used condoms a little more than 6% of the time when engaging in vaginal intercourse.
It’s important to keep in mind that correct condom use does not completely eliminate the chances of catching an STD, and all sexual contact could put you at some risk. For example, the human papillomavirus (HPV) is one type of STD that condoms may not fully protect against since it can infect areas not covered by a condom, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). According to the CDC, the only way to avoid STDs completely is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sexual contact.
Aside from a condom, another way to reduce your chances of getting an STD is to be in a long-term relationship that is sexually mutually monogamous, according to the CDC. You and your partner should also both be tested for STDs.
Risks for seniors having sex
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites several risk factors for older people getting HIV and other STDs. These risk factors include:
- Having multiple sex partners
- Lack of knowledge about HIV and STDs and how to prevent them
- Believing HIV and STDs are not an issue for older people and therefore not protecting themselves
- Being less likely to use a condom because of the lack of concern about pregnancy
- Age-related thinning and dryness of the vaginal tissue
- Being less likely than younger people to discuss sexual habits with a doctor
If any of these risk factors apply to you, be sure to take preventive action to protect yourself.
Medicare coverage of sexually transmitted infections
Medicare Part B (medical insurance) usually covers testing for some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and Hepatitis B once every 12 months. To be eligible you generally must be at increased risk of STIs and have the test ordered by a primary care provider. Medicare also may cover up to two behavioral counseling sessions per year for sexually active adults at increased risk for STIs. You must be referred by a primary care physician or practitioner.
If you have more questions about sexually transmitted diseases and people over 65, I can help answer your questions. If you like, use the other links to request a phone appointment or an email from me. I’ll send you Medicare information tailored to your needs. To browse plans now, try the Compare Plans buttons on this page.