LOS ANGELES—A Harvard study has concluded that men over 40 who take erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra, Levitra and Cialis are at higher risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
“Men who took the impotence pills were almost three times more likely to have a sex disease, particularly HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in the year before and after they started the drugs, according to research published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine,” reported Bloomberg. “The higher rate of sexually spread infections may have more to do with the habits or temperament of the men using the erectile drugs than with the medicines enabling them to have more frequent or riskier sex, the authors said.”
While the study was unable to conclude the reason for the higher rates, the lead author did speculate that the results suggested a higher rate of unsafe sex among older men. That hypothesis was supported by comments to Bloomberg by a medical resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who said, “Younger people have more sex partners than older folks, but per sexual encounter, the actual safeness of the sex is probably lower among older folks in the sense that they don’t use condoms.”
Whatever the reasons, the numbers should sound the alarm among older men who are using the drugs and increasing their sexual activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people aged 40 to 49 accounted for the largest proportion of newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases (27 percent) in 2007, and those 50 to 59 accounted for 13 percent. Those over the age of 60 accounted for 4 percent.
According to Bloomberg, “The study found that users of ED drugs had an overall STD rate of 214 per 100,000 people in the year before they took the pills. That gave them a 2.8 times greater risk of developing a sexually spread infection than men who didn’t take the drugs.”
A prevention measure suggested by the authors of the study was an encouragement to doctors prescribing ED drugs to remind their patients to engage in safe sex practices.