Background/introduction Sexual health policy is targeted towards younger adults, with national screening programmes and research studies excluding individuals over the age of 44. UK surveillance data demonstrated that rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) doubled in older people between 1996 and 2003, the fastest rise in all age groups.
Aim(s)/objectives To assess the health care needs of women aged 40 and over attending an integrated sexual health clinic in South London.
Methods Retrospective case notes review of 200 randomly selected female patients aged 40 and over attending between 2nd June 2014 and 30th May 2015.
Results 1728 out of 5039 women (34%) who attended the sexual health clinic were aged 40 and over. In the sample of 200, mean age was 46.6 years (range: 40–73 years). Ethnicity: Black 111 (55%), White 57 (29%), Other 32 (16%). 110 women (55%) attended for STI-related reasons (symptoms/partner notification/possible exposure/treatment). 41% attended for contraception and 10.5% for asymptomatic screen. Of 150 tested, 29 (19.3%) had STIs. STIs were: genital herpes 8 (5.3%), trichomoniasis 7 (4.7%), genital warts 5 (3.3%), chlamydia 2 (1.3%) and gonorrhoea 1 (0.7%). Overall condom use was 22.9%.
Discussion/conclusion A significant proportion of women accessing sexual health services were aged 40 and over. 1 in 5 women were diagnosed with an STI. Under a quarter of women used condoms, indicating sexual risk taking behaviour. The sexual health needs of older people will continue to increase, given our rapidly ageing population. There is therefore a need to develop age-specific health promotion strategies and to challenge assumptions regarding sexuality in older age.
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