Welcome to our new Sex at Our Age columnist, award-winning senior sexpert Joan Price! Every week during Senior Sex Month and then monthly, Joan will answer your questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Nothing is out of bounds! (Read our Q&A with Joan here.) To send your questions directly to Joan, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m really excited about a relationship I’m getting into with a man I’ve known for several years. We both feel a strong spark of interest, have had one very satisfying make-out session and would like to proceed with a sexual relationship.
My new partner has been tested twice since he last had intercourse and has offered to be tested again. I’ve only ever had two partners. The last one ended six years ago; we did not use condoms because he said he was disease-free, and I was past menopause. I know now I was naïve about the risks, but I’m completely asymptomatic.
I plan to be tested for sexually transmitted infections soon, but I don’t know what to ask for! Are there standard tests that include HIV and several other STIs, or what?
The other question is about condom usage: If both of us have clean test results, would condoms be necessary? I thought they wouldn’t be, but I’m reading info online that’s causing me to question this.
Thank you for admitting that you were naive to have unprotected sex with your partner six years ago just because he said he was disease-free. We can’t get pregnant, so we think we don’t need to use condoms with a new partner who claims to be “safe.” However, the evidence shows that many people who are infected either don’t know or don’t tell.
The scary truth is that cases of sexually transmitted diseases among 50- to 90-year-olds more than doubled between 2002 and 2012 – precisely because when we’re older, we think we think we’re safe having unprotected sex. In a 2009 survey of single, sexually active midlife and older people, 50 percent of males and 29 percent of females rarely or never use condoms. So don’t think you were the only one!
Realize that the partner of six years ago who had unprotected sex with you likely also had unprotected sex with other partners, and those people with other partners. That puts you in bed with a lot of people whose sexual-health status is unknown.
My safer sex advice is this: Agree that using barrier protection is smart sex as well as safer sex. Use condoms and other barrier protections (such as dental dams for cunnilingus) with every new partner, every time, until you’re in a sexually exclusive relationship and it’s been three to six months since either of you was sexual with anyone else.
In your case, it’s been a long time since your last partner, and your new man has been tested twice since his last intercourse. Nevertheless, you haven’t been tested, so use condoms now, talk to your doctor about setting up the tests, and continue to use condoms until your test results are in and you’ve discussed them with your doctor. Recommended tests can vary with sexual history and lifestyle, but the ones your doctor is likely to suggest may include:
- HIV. An estimated 20 to 25 percent of HIV-positive individuals are not aware they are infected.
- Chlamydia and syphilis. Cases in adults aged 45 to 64 nearly tripled between 2000 and 2010.
- Hepatitis C. Most of the 3 million adults in the US who are infected are baby boomers – according to the CDC, one in 30 people born between 1945 and 1965 is infected with the hepatitis C virus – and many do not know they’re infected and are not getting the treatment they need.
Talk to your doctor about whether additional tests are advisable for you. Enjoy this new relationship!
To send Joan your questions, email email@example.com. All information is confidential.
Joan Price is the author of the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and of “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Visit Joan’s blog, “Naked at Our Age.”