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Sex re-education vital for baby boomers & why women need to be screened every two years for cervical disease.

Looking for love online has become extremely popular these days, it used to be a secret once, but now nobody minds admitting to it. Online dating is not only for the young, and many baby boomers are also turning to the internet to find romance as they find themselves single again.

With more Australians living longer and healthier lives at the same time as divorce rates are on the rise, many will find new sexual partners later in life. Some of those who have been in long, monogamous relationships are now looking for more casual sexual encounters before they commit themselves again.

The availability of drugs such as Viagra has given many men who had given up hope to be sexual again, new opportunities.

Women who are now at a different stage in their life are quite happy being single for a while. The children may have left home and it is now time for them to have some fun. However, a long period of sexual monogamy has left them ill-equipped about safe-sex practice. Most women were on the pill and never, ever used a condom. And they missed out on the “safe sex messages” that were promoted in the 1980s.

Education campaigns about safe sex are generally aimed at young people and there is still an element of ageist stereotyping in our community that makes it difficult for some to believe older people still have sex. But the latest figures from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System show that STIs continue to rise, particularly among older age groups.

New cases of chlamydia among Australians aged 40 to 85 have jumped 17 per cent in the past three years, while the incidence of gonorrhoea has risen 44 per cent in the same period, an analysis by Family Planning NSW has revealed. The safe-sex message seems to have missed the baby-boomer generation.

About a year ago Family Planning NSW, together with the support of RSVP, Fairfax Media's dating site launched a safe-sex awareness campaign for older Australians called the “Little Black Dress”. The message was all about communication and the importance of being upfront when talking about safe sex with a new partner.

A short video with the theme: “Safe sex is an easier conversation to have with your clothes on” was produced, aimed at educating older Australians about the risk of having sex without a condom in a new relationship and the importance of being tested for STIs if unprotected sex happens.

People should have an honest discussion with a new partner about using a condom, before being swept away in the heat of the moment. They may not have been very sexually active themselves but their new partners may have been.

RSVP helped to promote the campaign, hosting a series of videos and articles on its Over 50 and Fabulous site group, to communicate the safe sex message to its members.

An attractive and discreet wallet was designed, with a picture on the front of a “Little Black Dress” which contained a condom, lube and instructions. About 3000 free packs were distributed at RSVP single events and were available from Family Planning NSW.

The project was delivered at the Australasian Menopause Society Conference in 2012 and the Australian Women's Health Conference in 2013, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Over recent years I have spoken to an increasing number of men and women, who needed advice on how to start a new relationship after the break-up of their marriages or long relationships. I was shocked by how many of them had never considered safe sex as they still believed that a condom was only needed to prevent pregnancies.

Nothing is more embarrassing for a baby boomer after having had sex with several new partners, to be told by a GP that he or she has an STI. The best rule to follow is “no condom, no sex” until both partners are tested.

It can be difficult to negotiate the use of a condom with a new partner, but remember they may be concerned about the same thing. The “Little Black Dress” condoms are not available any more, but choosing some of the rather interesting types available now, could definitely be a great “ice-breaker” when you still have your clothes on!

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