A project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

Skip Navigation

Womens Health logo
Healthy Aging
divider line

Protecting yourself

image from shoulders down of seated people, a doctor taking notes and a woman patient in a paper exam-room gown

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.

More information on Protecting yourself

Read more from womenshealth.gov

Explore other publications and websites

Connect with other organizations

Talking to your doctor about HIV

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.

How to lower your risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

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.

Return to top

Content last updated August 12, 2010.

Resources last updated August 12, 2010.

Return to top