Sexual health week 2010

Interesting story in The Times on the back of Sexual Health Week (13th -19th Sept 2010): “The ‘Saga Generation’ urged to use condoms as STI rate doubles.” The story explains how STI rates have risen significantly over the past decade in the over 50s because of various factors:

  • Sexual experimentation post break-up or divorce. We aren’t using condoms regularly because pregnancy is no longer an issue.
  • The lack of sexual health advice and information for older adults. Most ad campaigns seem to target teens to cut high rates of teenage pregnancy in the UK. Ask your parents when they last bought condoms or had an STI check (my mum is 56 and 10 years divorced; it’s been a while).
  • Higher divorce rates over the past decade means that there are more men and women in the dating pool, and a rise in the number of casual dating and solo holidays websites means sex is more accessible.

In response to this trend and because of an increase in the number of calls to their helpline, the FPA (Family Planning Association) has launched its first health campaign for over 50s to encourage more responsible sex. It’s called “Middle-age Spread” and the ads are based on original 60s fashion shoots, featuring the slogan: “Remember wearing this? Then remember to wear this!” They’re eye-catching but not in your face. We can all bond over dodgy fashion choices, and having a sense of humour about sex is vital. It’s a funny business.

Health Protection Agency statistics show that almost 13,000 men and women over 45 were diagnosed with an STI last year. This is double the number from earlier stats in 2000. Genital herpes infections are higher in older men than teenage boys, and over 5,000 men and women over 45 have had genital warts. It’s possible to pick up an STI from oral sex or shared sex toys, but it’s not common knowledge.

We don’t tend to talk about sex as much as we get older either – it’s hardly dinner party conversation so it’s difficult to know where to go for up-to-date advice. “There is very little sexual health information or services for the over 50s, and current campaigns, however good, are exclusively for the young,” says Julie Bentley, Chief Executive of the FPA.

“Many over 50s, relieved contraception is no longer an issue, forget about using condoms. Others haven’t had to think about using condoms for decades, let alone go into a shop and buy them. Worries about confidentiality stop them going to clinics which tend to be geared for young people. We often have the over 50s asking our helpline whether they are allowed to attend because of their age.”

She believes that we need to do more to encourage people to use sexual health clinics – i.e. running organised sessions for different age groups to make people more comfortable about using the services.

I love these glam condoms from French Letter (post to follow). They’re fairtrade, eco and  gorgeously wrapped in pretty coloured boxes. There are four varieties, depending on what tickles your fancy. Best of all, you can buy them online if you can’t face going down the shops.

Sexual health direct (helpline run by the FPA – 0845 122 8690)

Beecourse sexual health products & info

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