Safe sex is sexual activity engaged in by people who have taken precautions to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV. It is also referred to as safer sex or protected sex, while unsafe or unprotected sex is sexual activity engaged in without precautions, especially forgoing condom use.
It may be a strange topic to discuss, but you have to always remember, that you are never too old to be practicing safe sex, and exclusively safe sex, with no exceptions. Yes, lets double-stress the important point. Having safe sex is important for people at any age.
Age does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases. Definitely, young people are statistically most at risk for diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydial infection, genital herpes, hepatitis B, genital warts, and trichomoniasis. But, these diseases can and do happen in sexually active older people.
Almost anyone who is sexually active is also at risk for being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The number of older people with HIV/AIDS is growing. One out of every 10 people diagnosed with AIDS in the United States is over age 50. You are at risk if you have more than one sexual partner or are recently divorced or widowed and have started dating and having unprotected sex again. Always use a latex condom during sex, and talk to your doctor about ways to protect yourself from all sexually transmitted diseases. You are never too old to be at risk.
Sex Ed for Adults
In the modern practices, sex education classes tend to take place around the end of middle school or the beginning of high school, when most of us are just becoming sexually active. Now, more and more research shows sex ed should also be taught to the older adults. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Portland has found that men over the age of 60 who pay for sex do so more frequently, and with less protection as they get older.
"There is a nearly universal perception that older men do not pay for, or even engage sexually with regular frequency," said lead study author Dr. Christine Milrod in a statement. "This view may contribute to a false sense of security for both clients and sex workers during their encounters, and may lead to less protective strategies than with younger purchasers of sex."
Milrod and her colleagues assessed condom usage and sexual risk taking among 208 men between the ages of 60 and 84 who admitted to soliciting sex workers. All men participating in the survey were found through a bevy of sex provider review websites and discussion boards. Just over 30 percent of the participants had been diagnosed with an STD at some point in their life, including 10.2 percent who were diagnosed with gonorrhea; 10.1 percent with genital warts; 7.8 percent with genital herpes; and 5.3 percent with chlamydia.
Nearly 60 percent of the sample reported not always using protection with sex workers, while 95 percent said they avoided protection for manual masturbation and 91 percent said they avoided protection for oral sex. As these men got older, the likelihood of them using a condom declined. Rates of unprotected sex skyrocketed among 29.2 percent of the men who reported having an "all-time favorite" sex provider. Men who reported more unprotected sex were also more likely to be diagnosed with an STD.
"In addition, the exchange of emotional intimacy during the so-called 'Girlfriend Experience' as well as the possibility of being viewed as an elderly low-risk client who engages with only one or a very limited number of providers may contribute to a relaxation of boundaries and a false sense of security in avoiding STIs," Milrod said.
What is worse is that these older adults did not seem to comprehend the risks they were putting themselves up against. Around 77 percent of the men said the likelihood of them becoming infected with HIV was "low." Only 62 percent of them reported getting tested for HIV. Although only 57.2 percent of men reported talking with a doctor about sex since turning 60, 82.2 percent of those conversations were initiated by the patient.
"Medical and mental health clinicians should not assume that old age is a barrier to paying for sex, particularly among the generations that began engaging in sexual activity prior to the epidemic emergence of the HIV virus," the research team concluded.
As much as young people cringe at the idea, a growing number of older men and women remain sexually active as they age. A study, published in the February 2015 edition of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, included surveys with 6,201 men and women between the ages of 50 and 90; and while around 31 percent of men and 20 percent of women reported kissing and petting on a regular basis, an upward of 54 percent of men and 31 percent of women also reported having sex at least twice a month. And, safe sex is not just something they teach in a classroom — it's integral to health.
Safer Sex Tips for Seniors
Just like anyone of any age, seniors deserve clear information on how to protect sexual health. So here it is – several important dos and don’ts:
1. Talk it out.
Silence limits honest patient-doctor conversation, which lessens the health info that you can get. End the silence by talking to your doctor about your sex life.
2. Get tested!
Be your own health advocate and ask to be tested for STIs and HIV. Do it at the doctor’s office, or click here to find your closest testing locations on hivtest.org. Research shows that people over 50 at risk for HIV are 80 percent less likely to be tested than at-risk 20- to 30-year-olds.
3. Monogamy is cool, monogamy is sexy!
A single partner drastically decreases your risk of getting an STI. Remember, when you sleep with a person, you are indirectly sleeping with everyone they have slept with. Stay monogamous, stay safe.
4. Safer partners
Choose sex partners who you can have open and honest conversations with about sexual health. Discuss HIV/STI testing and safer sex practices before the lights go out. If you do not feel comfortable, stick to less risky, non-penetrative orgasms, choosing low risk sexual activities that do not involve fluid exchange, such as hugging, massage or masturbating alone or in front of a partner(s).
5. Mind the safety
Avoid getting so drunk or high that your judgment may fail you. Drug use or alcohol abuse interferes with decision-making, which can lead to sexual assault, forgetting to use contraceptives or contracting an STI. The lowering of inhibitions that often accompanies alcohol use might make you think you will enjoy sex more, but in fact, for a variety of biochemical reasons, too much alcohol actually makes sex less enjoyable for both men and women.
6. Attention required!
Look at your own and your partner's genital area for any changes, including sores, discharge or unusual odors, and address any concerns immediately with medical professional.
Think you know how to use a condom? May be you need some refresher course, it is never late to learn something new. Check what is the new BKMs (Best Known Methods) and new protective devices on the market. Use condoms on sex toys as well, or wash sex toys thoroughly between uses and between anal and vaginal sex. If you are starting a new relationship and if there is any chance, you might have sex with someone you have just met, carry condoms with you. Do not have sex if your partner refuses to use a condom. And, think on carrying extra condoms – in case one breaks or tears while it is being put on, it is best to have an extra one around.
Use gloves when inserting fingers or hands into the vagina, to reduce the STI risk for both the receptive and insertive partners.
9. Spit, don’t swallow
Bleeding or sores in the mouth from dental work, gum issues or ill-fitting dentures can provide opportunities for infection. The safest way to give a BJ is to avoid contact between your mouth and your partner’s body fluids. If you do get a mouthful, spit, do not swallow.
Along with technology comes a plethora of information on safer sex. Google and read on the best approaches for safe sex.
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