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Dramatic increase in sex disease in over 50s

There has been an increase in the number of middle-aged men and women in Northern Ireland contracting sexually transmitted diseases, new research has shown.

Statistics on marriage breakdown, and those unmarried by age 50, show that an increasing number of middle-aged men and women are having sex with new partners and as a result STIs in that age group are rising fast.

At least 20% of new cases of syphilis in 2009 were diagnosed in people over the age of 45 and during the past decade the number of acute STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and early syphilis diagnosed in Genito-Urinary Medical clinics has increased year on year.

Over 24 months, these infections rose by 4% for chlamydia to 27% for early syphilis.

Genital warts, a potentially more chronic and recurrent condition, continues to be the most common STI diagnosis made in GUM clinics.

Based on their statistics, most STIs affect people in the age range of 16-24, however 8% of chlamydia cases, 14% of gonorrhea cases and 19% of herpes cases in 2009 affected people over the age of 35.

Many people in the age group who feel they have a problem or just want a ‘pre-relationship’ check-up are now opting for private consultations.

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Dr Say Quah, a leading |private genito-urinary medical consultant, operates the 3fivetwo clinic in Belfast.

He said that older people are not spared from STIs.

The sexual health expert said: “We are seeing a rising number of sexually transmitted infections in our population, affecting people of all ages and the over 50s are not spared.

“My main concern for older patients is that the public and sometimes even doctors may have the misconception that older people aren’t at risk from STIs — this may mean they are less likely to be tested and promptly diagnosed.

“The message is that whatever age you are, everyone should always practise safer sex to reduce one's risk of acquiring an STI, and also screening is paramount if you have any concerns.”

“STIs are a significant health problem affecting our population across a wide age range, all races and any sexual orientation.

“We should not be ignorant to our sexual health needs.”

Dr Quah said people don’t have to feel ill to be carrying an infection.

“Many people can be carrying an STI with no symptoms at all, and those who are concerned that they may be at risk should be tested to identify any infection early and receive appropriate treatment and care before clinical complication arises,” he said.

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