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Myths and Facts: STD Transmission and Menopause

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Myths and Facts: STD Transmission and Menopause

Even after childbearing years, you are still at risk of contracting an STD if you do not practice safe sex. Women going through menopause sometimes feel embarrassed to discuss their sexual activity, even with their health care provider, but having these important conversations is critical. At AdvantageCare Physicians, we care for the whole you. That means our care experience includes attention to the physical, mental, and lifestyle factors that impact your health. Our providers are ready to listen to you and guide you through your care options, so you can be your healthiest self during this time of great change.

The following myths and facts will help you make sure you’re in-the-know about STDs and are prepared to protect yourself.

Myth: After you’ve started menopause, you no longer need to use condoms.

Fact: Post-menopausal bodily changes leave women more vulnerable than ever to STD transmission.

Changes to the vagina, such as thinning of vaginal walls, narrowing and shortening of the vagina, and decreased lubrication, leave women more susceptible to genital injuries and microabrasions that facilitate the entry of pathogens. It is crucial that you continue to use condoms, especially if your sex life includes new partners.
Myth: Older people have a much lower chance of getting STDs than younger people.

Fact: STD rates among people 45-65 have skyrocketed in recent years.

STD rates among people 45-65 have more than tripled over the past decade.1 Several theories offer potential explanations, including baby boomers staying more sexually active as they age compared to past generations, increased popularity of erectile dysfunction drugs, and low rates of condom use due to decreased odds of conception.

Myth: HIV is a young person’s concern.

Fact: People age 55 years or older account for 25% of all Americans living with HIV.2

It can be harder to detect symptoms of HIV with older adults. Many of HIV’s symptoms (tiredness, confusion, loss of appetite, swollen glands) are like symptoms of other illnesses that affect older adults. It is important that you talk to your doctor about your sexual history and practices, and that you get tested if you think you are at risk.

Regardless of your age, you put yourself at risk any time you have unprotected sex. And, during menopause, your body is undergoing a series of changes that make practicing safe sex even more important. If you have questions about STDs or your experience with menopause, schedule an appointment to talk with your provider.

1. “Why STDs Are Skyrocketing Among Older Adults,” Everyday Health, February 3, 2012, https://www.everydayhealth.com/erectile-dysfunction/0203/why-stds-are-skyrocketing-among-older-adults.aspx
2. “HIV and Older Americans,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Updated and Reviewed September 18, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/age/olderamericans/index.html