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- Talking to your doctor about HIV
- How to lower your risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- More information on protecting yourself
Many older adults don't think they are at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. This is not true! Almost anybody who is sexually active is at risk of getting an STI or HIV, including older adults. And it's much easier for a woman to get an STI (including HIV). Take steps to protect yourself.
If you are sexually active, you should know your HIV status. You should also know your partner's status. You both need to be tested. You may be embarrassed to talk to your doctor about HIV or ask to be tested. Don't be — many sexually active people have their doctors test them. You can also be tested without anyone knowing at a public clinic run by your city or state. If you want to test yourself at home, beware that only one home test has been approved by the FDA: Home Access Express HIV-1 Test System. You can buy other HIV home test kits online, but they are not approved by the FDA and may give wrong results.
You can lower your risk of STIs, including HIV, with these simple steps:
- Don't have sex. The best way to prevent STIs is to not have vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
- Be faithful. Have sex with one partner who has been tested for STIs and is not infected. Be faithful to each other, meaning that you only have sex with each other and no one else.
- Use condoms. Protect yourself with a male latex or polyurethane condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If your partner can't or won't use a condom, you can use a female condom. It may protect against HIV, but not as well as a male latex condom. Only use water-based lubricants with condoms. Vaseline and other oil-based lubricants can damage latex condoms.
Have a yearly pelvic exam and ask your doctor if you need to be tested for STIs. The sooner an STI is found, the easier it is to treat.
Read more from womenshealth.gov
Sexually Transmitted Infections Fact Sheet — This fact sheet explains what a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is and why STIs are especially harmful to women. It lists common STIs and their symptoms.
Explore other publications and websites
Age Page: Sexuality in Later Life — This brochure describes the normal physical changes in men and women that come with age. It also discusses the effects of illness, disability, and emotional concerns of sexuality in later life.
HIV, AIDS, and Older People — This publication explains what HIV is, how it is spread, how it is treated, why it is increasing among older adults, and how it affects them.
How to Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Copyright © ACOG) — This pamphlet explains how to lower your chances of getting sexually transmitted diseases. Your doctor can give you more details about the diseases described here and their treatments. By knowing the facts and taking certain safeguards, you can protect yourself from the serious problems that can occur with these diseases.
STIs: Learn How to Protect Yourself (Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians) — This online publication provides information on how to protect yourself from getting a sexually transmitted infection.
Connect with other organizations
American Social Health Association
Division of STD Prevention, CDC
National Institute on Aging, NIH, HHS
The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging
Content last updated August 12, 2010.
Resources last updated August 12, 2010.
A federal government website managed by the Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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