STIs a growing problem among seniors: C-K top doc

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By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Sexually transmitted infections among seniors are increasing.

In a report to the Chatham-Kent board of health Jan. 11, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, C-K’s acting medical officer of health, presented data indicating the problem has worsened in the last decade.

While cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis mainly occur in younger populations, Nesathurai said the rate of STIs is climbing in people in their “sixth and seventh decades of life.

“Sexually transmitted infections remain an important public health challenge,” Nesathurai told the board, noting many people living in long-term care and retirement homes are sexually active.

In Ontario in 2022, around 300 cases of gonorrhea in the 60-plus crowd were recorded by public health, compared to 60 in 2013.

Syphilis cases numbered 222 in 2022 – far more than the 40 cases recorded in 2013. The same trend is true for chlamydia, with about 400 cases found in people over 60 in 2022, with only 150 cases recorded in 2013.

Nesathurai said the increase in sexual disease may be attributed in part to increased testing, but said STIs are on the uptake in older individuals. 

Cultural factors such as higher rates of divorce and people becoming widowed are leading people to initiate new sexual relationships, Nesathurai explained. 

“Many older adults today came of age in the 1960s and ’70s, where there were different sexual mores,” he told the board.

Sexual enhancement medications such as Viagra also contribute to the issue, Nesathurai said. Plus, as pregnancy is no longer an issue for women, people are less likely to use barrier contraception.

And even though many people in seniors’ homes are sexually active, clinicians fail to ask about or even contemplate the issue.

However, Nesathurai said CK Public Health staff continue to address the matter by educating residents in long-term care and retirement homes.

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