Sexually transmitted infections among older adults pose a global public health challenge

Feb. 27, 2024
The incidence of HIV and other STIs among people aged 60 to 89 years is increasing in some regions of the world.

Evandro Fei Fang and colleagues have analyzed the global trends in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) of HIV and other STIs, among older adults aged 60 to 89 years from 1990 to 2019.

The study included data from 204 countries and was recently published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity journal.

Globally, the number of older adults with HIV and STIs has decreased over the last decades.

Even so, the number of new cases indicate that STIs in older adults continues to be a public health challenge. At the global level, there were more than 77 000 new cases of HIV and almost 26,5 million new cases of other STIs in older adults in 2019.

Furthermore, in some regions, the number of people who become infected is increasing.

“Despite the global decrease in the age-standardized incidence rate of HIV and other SITs in older adults from 1990 to 2019, many regions showed increases. The largest increases were in eastern Europe, central Asia, and high-income Asia Pacific.”, Fang explains.

Sexually active older adults often are more susceptible to HIV and other STIs than younger people. Various health conditions, especially the weakened immune system in older adults, can explain why.

However, the picture is more complex. Various biological, psychological, cultural, and societal factors contribute to the higher susceptibility.

Healthcare professionals are not always aware about sexuality and sexual activity in older adults.

This may lead to inadequate communication to older people regarding sexual health and the risk of HIV and other STIs.

On the other hand, advances in the treatment of HIV and STIs likely also contribute to a higher incidence in some parts of the world since people who have these conditions live longer than before.

Travelling to foreign countries has become more accessible to a considerable part of the world’s population over the last decades.

The researchers describe that the widespread use of erectile dysfunction medications and accessible sex industries in some countries and regions, further contribute to the spread of HIV and other STIs among older adults.

University of Oslo release on Newswise