Worry About STIs

At midlife many of us are dating, some of us starting to date again after many years with the same partner. 

New sexual relationships bring new worries. Though after one complete year without our periods, we no longer have to worry about protecting ourselves from pregnancy, we do need protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) whenever new sexual partners enter the scene.

One more time to be clear: If you have new partners, or your steady sex partner has new partners, you need protection. The threat is real and relevant to women like us. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 24 percent of the AIDS cases in the U.S. are among senior citizens. In a Harvard study, 43 percent of widows and 21 percent of widowers had been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. The North American Menopause Society says that by age 50, at least 80 percent of women in the U.S. will have acquired a genital Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection; 20 percent of U.S. adults have been infected with the genital herpes virus.

Your protection should be designed to keep you safe from the syphilis and gonorrhea we knew about when we were first dating, but also from chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts (human papillomavirus), hepatitis B, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Women are twice as likely to develop most of these diseases, once exposed, as men are. Sadly, many STIs don't produce obvious symptoms in women early in the infection, so are rarely diagnosed until a woman is significantly affected. And as our genitals age after menopause, we may be at increased risk for STIs because our tissues are prone to small tears and cuts that can encourage infections to take hold. So many reasons to play it safe!

Learn about the actions you could take, listed at right, to address this condition or see other conditions that could affect you.