1. The good news is that a 2012 study of 806 women between the ages of 40 and 100, conducted by Professor Elizabeth Barrett-Connor at the University of California found that half the participants were still sexually active, able to become aroused, maintain lubrication and achieve orgasm during sex, even after the age of 80.
2. The bad news is that few middle aged women are aware that menopause increases their susceptibility to sexually transmitted infection (STI), particularly HIV. The most common sexual problem experienced during menopause is vaginal dryness, or atrophy, and this increases the risk of contracting infection because irritated vaginal tissue makes it much easier for the virus to pass into the bloodstream.
3. Women over the age of 60 are now one of the fastest growing risk groups for HIV, according to research by Agate, Mullins, Prudent and Liberti (2003) of the Senior HIV intervention project in Florida.
4. And in the US, nearly 10% (9.5) of HIV cases in women are now in the over fifties, a rate that has tripled in the last decade.
5. Rates of STIs in the over forties have also soared in the UK. Data from the Health Protection Agency show that between 2001 and 2010, rates of chlamydia in the over 45s increased by 138%. Syphilis has gone up by 337%; herpes by 142% and warts by 62%. The number of middle aged people being diagnosed with HIV more than doubled between 2000 and 2007.
6. In Canada, research by Fang, Oliver, Jayaraman and Wong (2010) found that between 1997 and 2010, there was a bigger increase in the spread of STI's in people aged 40-59 than there was in those aged 15-29.
7. Condoms are crucial in the prevention of transmission, but a study by Reece et al (2010) at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University found that people over the age of 45 had the lowest rate of condom use.
8. As men age their erections become less reliable, so older men tend to be reluctant to wear condoms. Unsurprisingly, men aged 55 to 59 are more likely to be affected by an STI than any other group.
9. Viagra is not helping either. A study of more than 34,000 men over the age of 40 carried out at Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Southern California (2010) found that middle-aged and older men who took erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra were two to three times more likely to have a sexually transmitted disease. The most frequently reported STD was HIV/AIDS, followed by chlamydia.
10. Research by Bodley-Tickell et al (2008) predicts that unless the middle-aged grow up and start protecting themselves, the rate of sexually transmitted infection in people over 45 will double in the next ten years. They may be not perfect, but condoms are currently the only way to stem the tide. Once older couples are in a monogamous relationship, they can have a joint sexual health screening at a genitourinary clinic and if the results are clear they can ditch the condoms, because an infection can only be contracted if there is one present.