Dear Doctor: 'I'm 58, dating, and heard STIs are on the rise in over-50s. What do I need to know?'

Dear Doctor,

My husband and I married young – we were high-school sweethearts and we couldn't wait to embark on our life together. We were in love for a long time and we had three beautiful children together. But after nearly 40 years of marriage, we – perhaps inevitably – drifted apart... And now, in my late 50s, I’m newly single. I’ve slowly started to dip my toe into the dating scene (boy have things changed!) and sex with new partners is back on the table for me, for the first time in a very long time! I was chatting to a friend recently about this, and she told me she’d read that there has been an increase in STIs [sexually transmitted infections] in the over-50s age group. Given this, I was wondering how best to look after my sexual health now that I’m post-menopausal and experiencing new sexual partners?

Christie, 58


Hi Christie, 

I love that you are finding your feet in the dating world and I love that you are being so responsible with your sexual health

We do tend to think of STI risk being mainly in younger people and most education is aimed at this group. However, your friend is right – the recent statistics around STI risk has shown a spike in transmission in those over 50. This goes to show that there is a risk of getting an STI with any sexual encounter, regardless of your age, and that whoever said sex is only for the young had no idea what they were talking about! 


These sexually transmitted infections include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis. Left untreated, these infections can have serious health complications.

Watch: Let's talk about sex. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! Please don’t let this deter you from having a little bit of fun. The advice hasn’t changed that much over the years, so protecting yourself is still all about using condoms. It’s still very much ‘if it’s not on it’s not on’. I would like to empower you to discuss condom use with your partner during any type of sex (including vaginal, oral or anal sex) as this will significantly lower your risk of getting an STI.

Also, for those patients having sex with casual partners (even if you’re using a condom), I recommend having STI screening every three to six months. Plus, it is important to see your GP if you have any symptoms of concern such as a change in vaginal discharge, pain or bleeding when having sex or passing urine, ulcers or skin concerns to the vulva and surrounding area, pelvic pain or fevers.


You should also attend the GP for an STI screen if a partner discloses to you that they have tested positive for an STI. 

And these days, STI screening is super simple! For women, an STI screen (if you don’t have any symptoms) includes a self-collected vaginal swab for chlamydia and gonorrhoea (if preferred, you can provide a urine sample) and a blood test for HIV, hepatitis and syphilis, which can all be done on the same day at your GP clinic.

Have fun – and be safe!

Dr Rebecca Goadby is a General Practitioner who is passionate about the health of women through every stage of their lives. Her approach is compassionate and holistic, with a focus on preventative medicine and mental health wellbeing.

Information found in this column is not meant to be a substitute for proper medical advice – please contact your doctor or a health professional to discuss your own medical needs.

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