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Aging swingers at high STD risk

Sexually Transmitted Infections,
June 2010

Aging swingers at high STD risk

Heterosexual adults who engage in partner swapping or attend sex clubs for couples - have rates of sexually transmitted diseases comparable to teenagers and gay or bisexual men, both considered high-risk groups for catching herpes, HIV and chlamydia, among other infections.

Identification of sexually transmitted infection (STI) risk groups is essential for optimal prevention and medical care. Until now, swingers- that is, heterosexual couples who practice mate swapping, group sex, visit sex clubs for couples, were not considered as a specific risk group for STI in healthcare services and prevention. To compare STI prevalence rates in swingers with that in other risk groups, researchers collected data on nearly 8,971 Dutch patient visits at three sexual health / STI clinics in 2007 and 2008. About one in nine, or 12 percent, reported being a swinger with an average age of 43 years.

About 55 percent of all diagnoses of chlamydia and gonorrhoea were identified in swingers, compared to about 30 percent in gay men. Overall, one in 10 swingers had chlamydia while about one in 20 tested positive for gonorrhoea. Swingers over the age of 45 years had higher rates of STIs than swingers under 45 years. About 10 percent of male swingers over age 45 years had chlamydia and/or gonorrhoea, compared to only 2 percent of other male heterosexuals. The rate of chlamydia among gay or bisexual men was 15 percent.

For women swingers over 45 years, nearly 18 percent had chlamydia, compared to 4 percent of other heterosexual women and less than 3 percent of prostitutes. Other STIs, such as syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B, were not analysed because of the low incidence overall. The above findings could be attributed to the fact that concurrent sex partners, or having sexual contact with more than one person at a time or in rapid succession, promotes the spread of STIs.

Researchers recommend use of condoms as they are effective in preventing spread of STIs by body fluids, especially chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV. However, condoms are not as effective in preventing infections that are spread through skin to skin contact, such as human papilloma virus (HPV, linked to genital warts and cervical cancer) and herpes.

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