By the age 25, half of all youth will have acquired one or more infections. That’s more than 9 million youth with a sexually transmitted infection.
Young people aged 15-24 represent only a quarter of the sexually active population. Yet they have almost half of all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) out there! Let’s take a look at which sexually transmitted infections affect youth most.
- Young people aged 15-19 account for 40% of chlamydia cases.
- One in five men and women will become infected with genital herpes by the time they reach adulthood.
- Males 20-24 have the highest rates of gonorrhea.
Why is it that STDs/STIs continue to be a problem among young people? It is not a question as to whether teenagers are having sex. By twelfth grade, 65% of high school students will have engaged in sexual intercourse, and one in five sexually active teens will have had four or more sexual partners. These numbers continue to rise after high school. Teenagers and young adults are a vulnerable population because they make decisions and act in ways that put them at greater risk for STIs.
Young people are more likely than any other age group to:
- Have multiple sex partners
- Engage in unprotected sex
- Use drugs and alcohol at high rates
- Engage in high risk behaviors while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
Although STIs can be scary and embarrassing at times, they are not uncommon. Click here to learn ways to stay healthy and to protect against STIs.
Talking to Your Healthcare Provider
You should be talking to your healthcare provider about how to be sexually healthy and make sure that you understand how to protect yourself from STIs as effectively as possible.
Be sure to get tested for STIs on a regular basis. Many STIs do not have physical symptoms, and it’s crucial that you know your status so that you can take steps to treat your body if you do suffer from an infection–and so that you can protect your partner.
Remember, your healthcare provider is here to help you maintain good health in all areas of your life, so be sure to be completely honest about your concerns and experiences. This will help your healthcare provider have a full, clear picture of your health as a whole, because good sexual health and good general health go hand in hand.
Here are some conversation openers that may be helpful:
“When I do decide to have sex, I want to make sure that I’m taking all of the right steps to protect myself from STIs. Where should I start?”
[If you have a female partner] “How can I talk with my partner about birth control?”
“How can I talk to my partner about STDs/STIs? Can you give me some advice?”
“I want to make sure that my partner and I get tested before we have sex for the first time. Where should I go? How should I bring up the topic with him/her?”