A negative narrative surrounding sex and older people is stopping the over-50s from getting the support and services they need, according to Terrence Higgins Trust (THT).
Between 2017 and 2018 the largest proportional increases of gonorrhoea and chlamydia were reported in people aged 65 and older (gonorrhoea was up 42%, from 236 to 336; chlamydia 24%, from 416 to 517).
Similarly, the proportion of new HIV diagnoses reported in the over-50s increased from 13% in 2009 to 21% in 2018, and the rate of late diagnoses continues to be highest in this age group (58% in 50 to 64 year-olds; 64% in people aged 65-plus).
“Despite this trend, the sexual activity of older people remains taboo in many areas of society,” says THT’s HIV & Ageing Lead, Clive Blowes. “There is a tendency to desexualise people once they reach a certain age, resulting in a reluctance among many health professionals to openly discuss sexual health with older patients.
"We cannot separate our sexual health from our physical or mental health. Not only does this influence potential health outcomes, but it can also impact self-esteem, confidence and how relationships are perceived. Ultimately, this may make people avoid seeking help with problems related to their sexual health in the future.
“We must recognise the sexual relationships of our older population. They might change over the years but they are still enjoyable, valid and important for wellbeing. It’s time to change the negative narrative surrounding sex and older people and address the barriers that exclude older people from getting the support and services they need.”
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