In Australia STI testing is neither recommended nor routine for older adults despite the fact that baby boomers are hooking up, finding new partners and sometimes frequent partners, often without barrier protection.
Linda Kirkman, a PhD candidate at La Trobe University’s Rural Health School in Bendigo, will discuss the impact of sexual activity among the baby boomers and why a Federal sexual health policy is needed at the International Ageing Conference in Melbourne today.
“Sex education for baby boomers was nonexistent or limited when they were younger, and contemporary sexual health promotion is not targeted at them,’ says Ms Kirkman.
“The reality is that in the US and UK, STIs are common in this group but because there is no routine testing program for the age group in Australia, it is hard to know the full extent of STIs.”
She says that a policy is needed to encourage sexual health promotion and testing to older adults and their health providers.
Research from the Relationships Australia 2011 Relationships Indicators Survey shows that a majority of people within the baby boomer age range are sexually active, and for those in their fifties and sixties satisfaction is improving. Twenty five per cent of people aged over 70 are also sexually active.
Ms Kirkman says that sexual health policy in Australia is either focused on reproductive health, which relates to younger people, or cancer screening, and there is no sexual health promotion to people over 29.
“In Australia any STI data only reports on testing done and research tells us that both doctors and clients wait for the other to initiate the conversation about sexual health, so it often does not happen.”
She says that without testing, the data are limited and don’t tell us the full picture, and that without policy to encourage testing there will be no data – it’s a negative circle.
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