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Women Are Never Too Old for Sex -- or for Sexually Transmitted Disease

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If you have questions about herpes, go to WebMD's Genital Herpes chat board moderated by Terri Warren, RN, ANP. continued...

Sandra A. Carson, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, tells WebMD that she, too, thinks many gynecologists are reluctant to "talk about sex with these women."

But Carson says that many of these women are actually at high risk for sexually transmitted diseases. "Very often these are women who are recently divorced or widowed," she says. "They are now once again entering the dating world and may once again have several partners."

Eder's study backs up this observation. Among the women in his study, several were infected in the 1990s and one woman was infected in 2000, yet the women are all over age 50. He says that one woman in her 80s was infected as "the result of oral sex."

In addition to herpes, Eder says he is seeing an increasing number of older women who are infected with the human papillomavirus known as HPV. This virus has been linked to cervical cancer.

"What worries me is that older women are often not coming in for annual Pap tests," says Eder. "Many women think that there is no need for a Pap test after menopause."

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends Pap tests starting at age 18 and continuing throughout life. Although annual tests are recommended, after three negative tests a woman and her doctor can discuss changing to an every other year or three Pap test schedule.

Likewise, the College recommends that doctors discuss sexual history during periodic office visits.

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