The Elderly & STDs

"Your test came back positive for gonorrhea..." That's a line more of the elderly in our area are hearing these days. It's a subject some say needs to be talked about, because of the health risks involved.

NewsChannel 10's Marissa Bagg tells us how large of a problem sexually transmitted diseases are for the older generation. Planned Parenthood health specialists say the STD cases of those over 50 have doubled in the last year. Especially in men. Teens and young adults are often the target for STD education... Tonight some say the elderly need to take center stage.

"They're being faced with herpes at 60, gonorrhea and chlamydia and not knowing how to deal with that," says Troy Williams, the HIV/STD Coordinator for Planned Parenthood.

"That's becoming more and more each week that older men that are positive for STD," says Kim Hartman, a health specialist.

Hartman knows first hand because she's the one who has to break the bad news to clients. Out of the 26 cases she deals with weekly, about half the people are over 50. Part of the problem is older people don't use protection because they figure they don't have to worry about getting pregnant.

"We have regulars who come in every 3 months to get their tests because they've been out on the road," says Williams.

"Most of these people have had STDs before so they're not surprised at all, and occasionally I have a couple who gets upset but most times they're very non-chalant about it," says Hartman.

Or they just aren't taking Hartman's advice.

"We're seeing a lot of reinfection because people aren't coming in and getting treated," she says.

The biggest barrier is simply getting the word out because it is a touchy topic for parents and grandparents. But it's a barrier health specialists want to break through.

"Grandmothers having to go to granddaughters about how to put a condom on or what is herpes, it's going to take a lot of communication," says Williams.

Both Hartman and Williams added that this problem isn't just in Amarillo. They see it in cities like Dumas and Hereford, and across the panhandle.