HIV After Menopause
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise among people aged 50 and upwards. This category of course includes postmenopausal women. This increase in STDs in older adults has been attributed to the rising divorce rate in Britain and a more liberal attitude to sex in general. People who have come out of long marriages, or who have been bereaved after a long relationship, may be having sex with new partners for the first time. They may not be as aware of the need to use condoms as younger adults.
Although the risk in the UK of contracting HIV through sexual activity in the post menopause years is still relatively low, it cannot be ruled out. HIV is probably the most devastating STD around. People can live with the virus for years before becoming aware that they are carriers. For all these reasons, postmenopausal women need to think about protecting themselves against STDs like HIV, even though pregnancy is no longer a concern for them.
The Post Menopause Risk
Postmenopausal women may be at risk of contracting STDs for a number of reasons, in addition to the possible lack of awareness about condoms mentioned above.
One factor is that after menopause, a woman’s vaginal tissue becomes drier and she is likely to produce less natural lubrication when sexually aroused. This makes the skin inside and around her vagina more prone to small tears during sex. Bacteria and bodily fluids from her partner can pass through these tears and infect her with whatever disease he is carrying. HIV in particular is passed on through bodily fluids.
Older people who’ve been in long term relationships are less likely to have been screened recently for STDs. This means that a problem such as an STD picked up years ago – perhaps through an act of infidelity or from a relationship with a previous partner – may have gone unnoticed for a long time. If the carrier then begins a new relationship and doesn’t use condoms, he or she is putting the new partner at risk.
HIV prevention is much the same after menopause as it is for premenopausal women. You must use condoms when having sex with someone new for the first time. If you’re inexperienced with condoms or embarrassed about buying them, you’re going to have to be brave about it. Condom usage is an absolute necessity if you haven’t yet been for STD testing, including for HIV, or if you’re having sex with someone who hasn’t received the all-clear following STD testing. There is plenty of information online about condoms and you should speak to your GP if you have any concerns.
If you are concerned about HIV or your sexual health in general, you can make an appointment at your local GUM clinic. The staff there is experienced in counselling people from all walks of life about sexual health, and you won’t be judged in any way for your choices.