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Risk factors for STD infection

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Just about anyone who engages in sexual activity is at risk of receiving a positive STD test at some point in their life, but certain individuals may be even more likely to contract an infection due to their lifestyle habits or other factors. Understanding these risk factors can help individuals mitigate them and reduce their chances of becoming infected.

Who's at risk?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are about 19 million positive STD tests each year. About half of these come from individuals between the ages of 15 and 24. Age in and of itself, regardless of other factors, is one of the single biggest risk factors for contracting an STD.

This is largely because young people often fail to practice safe sex or engage in sexual activity with multiple partners. For example, of the 34 percent of high school students who had sex within the last three months, 39 percent did not use a condom, according to a 2009 survey from the CDC. Furthermore, 14 percent of high school student have had sex with four or more partners in their lifetime.

The agency states that abstaining from sexual activity is the only 100 percent effective method of avoiding positive STD test results. Using a condom during every sexual encounter is the next most effective way to reduce risk.

Others at risk

Men who have sex with men are also at a particularly high risk of contracting an STD. The CDC reports that STD rates have been climbing among this population in recent years, particularly in the cities of Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Miami and New York, as well as in much of Southern California. Syphilis is one of the most common STDs among this group.

Furthermore, the sores that breakout on the genitals as a result of syphilis infection increase the risk of becoming infected with other conditions like HIV. In fact, the CDC estimates that anywhere from 20 to 70 percent of those recently infected with syphilis also have HIV.

Individuals who use methamphetamine also have much higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases. This trend often converges with the high infection rate among men who have sex with men, according to the CDC.

Knowing the risk factors for receiving a positive STD test is the first step in avoiding infection. This may help individuals take measures to preserve their health and that of their partner.
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