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by Abigail Van Buren

Sexually Active Seniors Risk Spreading Disease

DEAR ABBY: April is Sexually Transmitted Disease/Infection (STD/STI) Month. The good news is that many younger people pay attention to the education they have received and are more likely to use protection when having sex.

The troubling news is, one of the fastest-growing groups of people contracting and spreading STDs/STIs is senior citizens. Some blame medications for erectile dysfunction; others blame midlife divorces and online dating sites. The biggest factor is lack of education. When seniors were growing up, they had to think about only two STDs. Today there are many more.

Back then, the "worst" thing that could happen if you had unprotected sex was that you could get pregnant. Now, because many are past menopause, that risk factor is gone, so they don't use condoms. And the STDs and STIs rage on.

Many seniors won't talk to their doctors about their sexual activity, and -- worse -- many doctors don't bring up the subject because they feel uncomfortable or mistakenly assume older people don't engage in sexual activity. Please, Abby, urge your older readers to get tested for STDs/STIs. -- EDWARD SALKO, D.O., FORT MYERS, FLA.

DEAR DR. SALKO: I long for the days when the only things people associated April with were paying taxes and the rain that would bring May flowers. But enough about ancient history.

Readers, if you are sexually active -- and this applies to those of you from your teens to your 90s -- for your own sake as well as that of your partner, use a condom every time unless you and your partner have been tested for STDs and know with certainty that neither of you has one. Not everyone who has an STD is aware of it -- and you can't tell by looking at someone whether that person is infected.