If you’re worried about being caught red-handed in the drugstore checkout line with a box of Trojans and a bottle of lube, order supplies online. Most drugstore chains, including CVS and Walgreens, will ship condoms, dental dams, and lubricant right to your door. When ordering online, Cullins suggests shopping for brands you recognize and checking the expiration dates when the package arrives.
Practicing safer sex is part of protecting yourself and your partner from STDs. The other part is knowing your own health status. Says Cullins, "If you’re thinking about becoming sexually active or changing partners, you need to get tested."
Your doctor should do a full STD panel to test for the possibility of infection before you get intimate with a new paramour.
"It might not occur to most doctors to ask older patients about sex or offer sexual health screenings so you’ll often have to bring it up," says Berman.
If the thought of talking sex with your family doctor is too uncomfortable to bear, urgent care clinics and state health departments do offer discreet STD testing. Although most of the patients in Planned Parenthood clinics are in their teens and twenties, the nonprofit does offer sexual health screenings and STD testing to women over 50. You can also use one of several Internet services to set up a confidential test at a nearby medical lab, though the quality of these services’ advice and patient resources varies.
Medicare covers the cost of HIV screenings. Earlier this year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it might add STD tests to the list of exams covered under the federal health insurance program.
Even if you get a clean bill of health, don’t forget to ask all your partners whether they’ve been tested.
"You have to advocate for your own sexual health,” Berman says. “Getting tested — and making sure your partner does the same — is one way to do that."