Viagra-popping seniors lead the pack for STDs

NEW YORK Tue Jul 6, 2010 12:04pm EDT

A box of Viagra, typically used to treat erectile dysfunction, is seen in a pharmacy in Toronto January 31, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

A box of Viagra, typically used to treat erectile dysfunction, is seen in a pharmacy in Toronto January 31, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch

Related Topics

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Even if you're past your prime and have a hard time getting an erection, you might still need to worry about unprotected sex, according to U.S. doctors.

In fact, they report in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in older men taking erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra is twice as high as in their non-medicated peers.

In both groups, however, the numbers are swelling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than six new cases of STDs per 10,000 men over 40 in 2008, up almost 50 percent since 1996.

"Younger adults have far more STDs than older adults, but the rates are growing at far higher rates in older adults," said Dr. Anupam B. Jena of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who led the study.

While the reasons for this development aren't well understood, he said more divorces and better health might have conspired to boost sexual prowess and activity among graying heads.

The problem, however, is that older adults appear to flaunt safe sex practices. For instance, the researchers note, 50-year-olds are six times less likely to use a condom than men in their 20s.

"We are typically unaccustomed to practice safe sex over the age of 50, because the risk of pregnancy is eliminated," Jena told Reuters Health.

To test whether the introduction of Viagra in 1998 might explain some of the STD surge, Jena and colleagues examined insurance records for more than 1.4 million U.S. men over 40. The average age in the study was about 60 years.

The most commonly found STD was HIV, followed by chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea.

Among the few percent of men who had filled prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs, more than two in a thousand had been treated for an STD in the year before they got the drug.

A year later, the number dropped to half that, suggesting that Viagra and its chemical cousins didn't fuel STDs.

However, the risk of contracting an STD turned out to be more than twice as high in men taking erectile dysfunction drugs compared with those who didn't.

"These users have a different sexual risk profile than non-users," said Jena, adding that the data didn't reveal any good explanation.

In an editorial, Dr. Thomas Fekete, of Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, noted that it would have been valuable to know more about the frequency of sexual encounters, sexual partners and orientation.

He added that prevention strategies should still be directed at younger age groups, whose STD risk is at least 10 times higher than in middle-aged and older adults.

Still, he said, the authors remind us "that men older than 40 years remain sexually active, even if they need chemical assistance to do so. This study also serves as a reminder that sex after age 40 years is not necessarily safe."

Jena recommended that doctors take a few minutes to discuss safe sex with older men when they prescribe Viagra.

His advice? "Look, just realize that you are at higher risk for STDs, and try to be careful like you used to be 30 years ago."

SOURCE: www.annals.org/

Annals of Internal Medicine, online July 5, 2010.

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (30)
1AmericanGuy wrote:
STDs aren’t ageist. They’ll feed on any suitable host, regardless of age.

Jul 06, 2010 11:57am EDT  --  Report as abuse
LLCisyouandme wrote:
While the author was being clever tossing puns around like “have a hard time getting an erection” and “the numbers are swelling” he should have been looking up the difference between “flaunt” and “flout.”

Jul 06, 2010 12:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
hsvkitty wrote:
The numbers are swelling? Swell choice of words!

Jena is right about the risk of pregnancy not being there being one of the reasons, but I laughed out loud when he said.

“Look, just realize that you are at higher risk for STDs, and try to be careful like you used to be 30 years ago.”

This is the baby boomer generation! The hippies and free love movement. Very few people used protection and it was the pre HIV generation. THAT IS what they are going back to!

The old curmugeons never used a condom before and you want them to wear one now? GOOD LUCK! They didn’t get sex education in school and their knowledge about STDs is practically nil.

It may help to have those discussions, but the females are the ones who usually get men to wear them, so there should be more education for women.

Some of the reason I can think of off hand (being that age myself I don’t need studies, I am in a real life one) are:

* Men have discovered ‘limp no more’ and are demanding of more sex. Females this age have a lower libido and oftne no libido as there is as of yet no female ‘yes I want it now’ drug.

* Men who aren’t getting any will then be more likely to cheat or to leave the marriage to ‘get some.’

* Most of the men will revert back to sex, sex and more sex, any kind of sex once they are back in the saddle so to speak. They are less discerning about whom they will have sex with, how many they will have sex with at a time and of course often without protection.

* Viagra adds a new courage for older men to now not only ogle the younger flesh, but to believe wholeheartedly that they deserve it and have to have it. In other words, the little brain takes over once again… so they are less likely to look for relationships, but are definitely looking for sex just as they did 30 years ago!

BTW , please note the more expensive HSV blood test was not on there, but If it were the numbers would be higher 10 fold.

Jul 06, 2010 12:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.