Many seniors assume that we don’t get sexually transmitted infections and are not at risk for HIV. They’re dead wrong. Consider this:
- About eleven per cent of all newly diagnosed HIV infections are in people older than fifty, and a quarter of those are older than sixty.
- The risk of AIDS is increasing at twice the rate in people over fifty as compared to the increase in people under fifty.
- Heterosexual HIV transmission in men over fifty is up ninety-four percent, and the rate has doubled in women since 1991.
- An Ohio University study found that about twenty-seven percent of HIV-infected men and thirty-five percent of HIV-infected women over fifty sometimes have sex without using condoms.
- Older women are particularly at risk for blood-borne diseases like HIV or chlamydia because their thinning vaginal lining and lack of lubrication lead to tearing during intercourse, permitting easy access to the bloodstream.
If you’re dating or in a non-monogamous relationship, the issue of safer sex needs to come up early. Some of my women readers write me that they feel uncomfortable asking a new partner to use a condom. They are often newly in the dating game after divorce or death of a spouse. “If I ask a man to use a condom, it sounds like I don’t trust him,” they say. “If I have them on hand myself, he’ll think I sleep around.”
My belief is that if you can’t talk about safer sex with someone, do you really want to invite that person inside your body? But I know it’s hard, especially if you’ve been in a long-term relationship and suddenly find yourself out in that scary world of dating, sex with new partners, and the risks that weren’t a part of our blazing youth.
The Condom Conversation needs to happen before the heat of passion has a chance to melt your resolve. When the sparks and kisses signal that sex is likely in your future, talk about barrier protection. Agree to be prepared when you’re ready for the next stage, whether that means next weekend, weeks from now, or in an hour.
In my single past, these approaches served me well:
- “I always use condoms with a new partner to protect us both.”
- “I’ll buy the condoms — do you prefer a special kind?
- “Do you have condoms, or should we make a run to the store?”
- “Your condoms or mine?”
What if your date refuses? I’ve had occasions when a man refused to use a condom, saying something like, “Sex with condoms just isn’t enjoyable.”
I would reply, “Is no sex more enjoyable?”
At this point, I knew the date was over, and I was glad to know in advance that he didn’t value my sexual health or his own. If he was willing to go to bed with me without protection, then he did that with his last partners, and they did it with their last partners, and so on.
Take a look at Sue Katz’s blog post titled “Seniors Get Infected, Too (Often)” for some startling information about the lack of HIV prevention education for older adults.