Good heaven, heal my ailing virgin eyes. A video has gone viral of gray-haired folks getting freaky in various positions and it looks like—sans the mile-high polyester pants, the Hawaiian shirts and the Sophia Petrillo-esque hairstyles—the wild thing isn’t that much different in the golden years than it is now. My favorite: the lady in the handstand. Hip replacements and arthritis be darned. These folks are getting it in. Thankfully the actors in this public service announcement are clothed, because I could not handle any more realistic simulation.
But there’s a method behind the madness—and not just the wide range of methods demonstrated by Mrs. Witherstone and her man-friend from the senior center. The rate of STD infection has skyrocketed among active elders in the last five years. Syphilis and chlamydia are major issues in the 50 to 90-year-old set (I just fainted a little in my seat thinking of a 90-year-old still being, you know, active). Nearly 27 percent of patients infected with HIV are people over the age of 50, and they need special attention, because between Cialis and Viagra, they ain’t worrying about canasta and lodge meetings as much as they used to be.
There’s another segment of the population who’s getting busy on the regular and need to get on board with STD awareness: women in monogamous relationships. I know plenty of happily married ladies and gals in long-term, secure relationships think they left that world behind, those routine visits to the clinic or the doctor to be screened after a night of bad decision-making. A conscience can be quickly cleared with a stern lecture to self, a clean bill of health and a handful of condoms when you’re a swingin’ single. But when your guard is down and you’ve been on the lam from regular testing for as long as you’ve been half of a faithful twosome, you get lulled into a false sense of comfort that can be dangerous.
I’m not saying your man is cheating, Mrs. Off-the-Market, or that your significant other is stepping out, Miss Technically-Single-But-Still-Taken. Far be it from me to throw any relationship into the quagmire of probable infidelity. But the fact, quiet as it may be kept, is that things happen. Maybe your dude hasn’t been tested in a long time and, as we know, not everything comes up as immediately as we’d hope that it would. Men’s Health did a survey around this time in 2011 and found out that 69 percent of its online readers hadn’t been checked for any STD within the last year and 42 percent said they’d never been. Because they hadn’t really thought about it. At all. Ever. Well, that’s just a little terrifying, isn’t it?
Not that the good fellas over at Men’s Health represent a substantial portion of the male population, but they do digitally embody the pervasive mindset that monogamy pushes testing to the back of the mind. But if you just so happen to be with one of these dudes who’s never even thought about being tested, you best to look out for yourself, even if he won’t do himself the favor. Syphilis is scary and chlamydia is too, but HPV is reeking havoc on reproductive organs, gonorrhea is becoming resistant to treatment and there are almost as many of us walking around with latent cases of herpes as there are registered voters.
All I’m saying is this: I’ve heard lots of women heave sighs of relief about “not having to worry about that anymore,” and you can think that if you want to. But I’d much rather find out something is awry in an effort at proactivity than be forced to scramble for treatment after unwittingly carrying around a nasty infection for Lord only knows how long. Every year, 19 million new cases of infections are reported. It doesn’t take a concerted effort to ask your doctor to slip an STD screening into the rundown for your annual physical. Your man doesn’t even have to know. But it’s better to be safe than really, really sorry.