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STD Concern



Am I at Risk of an STI?

Doctors and Nurses in Hospital

By Healthwriter

Estimates suggest that over half the population will contract a sexually transmitted infection during their lifetime, but how do you avoid becoming another statistic? Anyone who is sexually active can contract an STI, but some factors place you at higher risk. By understanding the risk factors for STIs, you can take measures to protect yourself from infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B and HIV.

Risky behaviors

You need to have oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone infected with an STD to contract the infection and you are more likely to be in this situation if you take part in more risky behaviors. For instance, if you are not in a committed relationship and either of you has multiple sexual partners, having sex without using a condom places you at high risk of getting an STI. Your risk of an STD is also greater if either you or your partner is an IV drug user, as hepatitis B and HIV are spread when using infected needles and during unprotected sex. Additionally, if you have sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, this places you at higher risk of a sexually transmitted infection, as you are more likely to make poor decisions when these substances cloud your judgment.

History of STIs

If you previously had a sexually transmitted infection, you are also at greater risk of repeat infections. The greater likelihood relates to re-infection from an untreated partner, continuation of risky sexual behaviors and the fact that certain STDs increase the chance of contracting others. For example, you are more likely to contract HIV if you have genital herpes or syphilis due to the presence of sores that allow the virus particles to enter your body more easily. 

Younger and older adults

Half of all STD infections occur in the under 25s, making STIs particularly prevalent among this age group. Young women's bodies are particularly susceptible to contracting infections spread through sexual contact, but this isn't the only reason why the risk of STIs is so high among young people. Difficulty accessing healthcare and concerns relating to confidentiality also mean that teens and young adults miss out on sexual health screening, allowing infections to go undetected and untreated, which lets them spread quickly.

The over 50s are another group at particular risk of sexually transmitted infections. Older adults who are recently divorced or widowed may not be fully aware of how STDs are spread and how to prevent their transmission, causing the infections to spread easily among this age group. Another relevant issue is that when women are no longer at risk of pregnancy, they are less likely to practice safe sex, leaving them vulnerable to acquire and pass on STIs. Additionally, erectile dysfunction treatments allow greater numbers of older men to engage in sexual activity, and if they have unprotected sex, infection rates are high. Finally, the older generation is less likely to discuss their sexual health at appointments with their doctor, so they potentially miss out on relevant screening and the chance to receive treatment.

Although some factors place you at higher risk of a sexually transmitted infection, anyone who is sexually active can contract an STI. If you have taken risks during sex, you should therefore take an STD test annually. The CDC has specific guidelines for STD testing, which can help you determine when and how often you should take a test. For instance, women under 25 who are sexually active should receive annual testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea, while pregnant women should take an STD test in early pregnancy. By getting tested for STIs, you can get early treatment, which helps to prevent the complications of these infections, promoting your sexual health and general wellbeing.

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