Most young adults grew up learning about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and know how to avoid getting them. However, safe sex practices haven't caught on as well in the over-50 crowd.

A study done by the Indiana University Center for Sexual Health Promotion revealed that adults over age 50 are having sex with casual partners or friends more often than was previously thought. In fact, study findings showed more than 25 percent of older men and women had recently had sex with "casual partners."

This group also had the lowest rates of condom use with over 90 percent of older men not using condoms during these casual encounters. What's more, many older adults weren't even aware they should be getting tested for STDs with nearly 40 percent never having been tested for HIV or other STDs in their entire lives.

Given those statistics, it's not surprising that the Centers for Disease Control reports that 16 percent of new HIV cases occur in adults over age 50, and 25 percent of those currently living with HIV/AIDs are over age 50.

Sex-Ed Refresher for Baby Boomers?

Considering how many adults are sexually active, and therefore how many are at risk for HIV, herpes, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, hepatitis, and other STDs, maybe it's time for a new sex-ed class geared toward the baby boomer generation.

The same tips offered to teens in sexual health classes in high school apply to adults of all ages:

  • Get tested for HIV/AIDS and other STDs before engaging in sexual activity.

  • Limit sex partners to only those you know have been tested for STDs.

  • Insist on testing. According to Planned Parenthood, 1 in 3 people will say they're STD-free when they know they are not.

  • Use condoms every time you engage in vaginal, oral or anal sex unless you're with a long-term monogamous partner who has tested STD-free.

  • Practice "safer sex" until you're sure both you and your partner are STD-free. Safer sex includes a variety of sexual activities that don't involve exchange of body fluids.

For many adults, the biggest barrier to practicing safe sex is their anxiety about broaching the subject. You may feel weird or anxious about mentioning testing or condoms, preferring to just let the moment happen. You may worry you'll break the mood or ruin the romance, but the truth is, one encounter with the wrong disease could impact your health and the rest of your sexual life.

When you date, carry your own supply of condoms and when the mood strikes, insist on safety every time.

Heather E. Weldon, MD, OB/GYN, reviewed this article.




Indiana University Center for Sexual Health Promotion

Planned Parenthood

Centers for Disease Control
HIV/AIDS statistics