Here’s the good news: women over 50 are reporting more satisfying sex than ever. Sadly, this news is coupled with the surprising fact that the over-50 age group has become the fastest growing population of HIV/AIDS in our nation, and women are becoming infected more commonly than men. Lets look at what you can do to stay infection free.
The hard facts:
In the last decade AIDS in women over 50 have tripled.
- According to the CDC, 20 percent of the 1.1 million American men and women living with HIV/AIDS do not know they have the disease. Experts believe the percentage is higher among those over 50, due to a lack of education and testing in this population.
- Vaginal wall thinning and dryness, which could cause small tears, create more opportunity for HIV infection to occur in women.
- Age reduces the immune response in general which can predispose to infection.
- Oil-based vaginal lubricants can cause latex condoms to break, increasing risk of transmission of HIV and other STDs.
- With the advent of drugs for erectile dysfunction, men over the age of 50 are more likely to have multiple sex partners, including prostitutes.
- Older adults with no suspicions that their partners could be infected fail to get tested for HIV when they have checkups.
How to protect yourself:
- If you are sexually active, don’t underestimate your risk for HIV/AIDS. Use condoms and be sure to have an open conversation about HIV risk with your partner.
- You and your partner should have HIV testing.
- In most cases of infection, testing will become positive within 3 months of exposure.
- When testing for HIV, test for other common STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B and C, herpes 1 & 2 and syphilis.
- Talk to your pharmacist about which vaginal lubricants or estrogen supplements can be used with specific condoms. There are plenty of water based lubricants. Do not use Vaseline, or other oil-based lotions. Remember that most vaginal treatments for yeast will break latex.
- Carry your own condoms. The best condoms for prevention are lubricated latex, (lambskin condoms do not block transmission!).
- Make sure to check condom expiration dates.
- Use a condom with oral sex too- transmission of HIV ( and other STD’s) can occur orally.
Have fun but please be safe!