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High-Risk Sexual Behavior

Topic Overview

High-risk sexual behavior puts people at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unplanned pregnancy, and being in a sexual relationship before being mature enough to know what makes a healthy relationship. Teens and young adults are at higher risk than adults.

Examples of high-risk sexual behavior include:

  • Unprotected intercourse without male or female condom use, except in a long-term, single-partner (monogamous) relationship.
  • Unprotected mouth-to-genital contact, except in a long-term monogamous relationship.
  • Early sexual activity, especially before age 18.
  • Having multiple sex partners.
  • Having a high-risk partner (one who has multiple sex partners or other risk factors).
  • Having anal sex or a partner who does, except in a long-term, single-partner (monogamous) relationship.
  • Having sex with a partner who injects or has ever injected drugs.
  • Exchange of sex (sex work) for drugs or money.

Reasons for high-risk behavior

People may have high-risk behavior because they:

  • May not understand the concern about STIs and how they are transmitted.
  • May not talk about safer sex practices with sex partners.
  • Aren't prepared or don't understand how to use protective measures to prevent STIs.
  • May not be aware of symptoms of STIs.
  • May not seek medical care for STI symptoms.
  • May not have access to treatment or be able to afford treatment.
  • May use alcohol and drugs and have sex. Drugs and alcohol impair judgment and make unsafe sex more likely.

For more information see: Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Credits

Current as of: February 26, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD, MMEd, FRCPC - Emergency Medicine

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