Safe sex for the over-40s

IN AN Australian first, Family Planning NSW has launched a safe sex awareness campaign for older Australians, telling over 40s: "Safe sex is an easier conversation to have with your clothes on."

Family Planning medical director Dr Deborah Bateson, said the new campaign aimed to educate people over 40 about the risks of having sex without using a condom and to equip them with the information they need to practice safe sex.

"It's all about communication and our message is to be upfront when talking about safe sex with a new partner," Dr Bateson said.

"We want people to have an honest and frank discussion with their partner about using a condom, and have that discussion early, before being swept up in the heat of the moment."

The campaign aims to raise awareness about using condoms in new relationships as well as the importance of being tested for sexually transmissible infections (STIs) if unprotected sex does happen.

Family Planning NSW's ground-breaking research, undertaken with the support of dating site RSVP in 2009, made international headlines when it revealed that women aged over 40 are less likely to use condoms with new partners than their younger counterparts.

At the same time, national notification data highlighted the sharp rise in STIs in older Australians.

Latest figures from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System show that STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea continue to rise in Australia, particularly among older age groups.

"Since 2005, the number of new chlamydia cases in people aged 40 and above has doubled," Dr Bateson said.

She said this increase may be due to greater numbers of Australians meeting new sexual partners later in life. Until now there has been an absence of safe-sex campaigns targeted to this age group.

"People in their 60s are not part of the 'condom generation' and would have been experimenting with sexual relationships in the 1970s, many years before HIV and the Grim Reaper campaign of the late 80s hit the public's consciousness," Dr Bateson said.

"Older people may not feel comfortable discussing condoms and STI issues with their partner or with their GP and they certainly don't want to talk about it with their children.

"People may feel somewhat invincible at this later stage of life or, in the case of women who've gone through menopause, they don't have the added incentive of using condoms to prevent unintended pregnancy."

An awareness video has been developed, to direct women and men to factual information about STIs and safe sex on the Family Planning NSW website at

With the theme of "safe sex - it's an easier conversation to have with your clothes on", the video highlights how women can approach the conversation of safe sex and how important it is to have that conversation early.


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