Home Health Why STIs are on the rise for people over age 55: ‘Age...

Why STIs are on the rise for people over age 55: ‘Age is not a condom’


There’s no such thing as being too old to get a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Despite that, there’s “a misconception” that older adults are “immune to STIs simply because they’re over the age of 55 and that’s not going to happen to them anymore,” Dr. Ina Park, associate professor of family community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of Strange Bedfellows: Adventures in the Science, History, and Surprising Secrets of STIs, tells Yahoo Life.

Park wants older adults to know that you can get an STI “regardless of your age.” Quoting HIV research scientist Dr. Stephen Karpiak, Park says, “Age is not a condom.”

In fact, according to Park, “You might be surprised to know that STIs are going up for everybody, including for people over the age of 55.”

STIs on the rise
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Although infections like chlamydia, for example, are highest among adolescents and young adults, a 2020 study shows that STIs in general among older adults have “dramatically increased in recent years, especially among those who are widowed and divorced.”

The study authors point out that STIs have “more than doubled in the past 10 years among U.S. adults age 65 years and older.”

Although new HIV diagnoses are dropping among people 50 and older, about one in six HIV diagnoses in 2018 were in this older age group, according to the CDC. In addition, Park points out that herpes, which is highly contagious, is “an infection that stays with you forever once you become infected” and that the percentage of people with herpes “goes up with age.”

By the time people are over the age of 50, Park says “about one in five of us has herpes type 2,” which causes genital herpes. “And then when we talk about herpes type 1, which causes oral herpes or cold sores, it’s over 60 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 50 that has herpes type 1.”

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