Risky behaviors such as not using condoms or having sex with multiple people put young adults at risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases, but perhaps not as much as the characteristics of their sexual partners, University of Florida researchers say.
The findings, which UF and University of Pittsburgh researchers report in the April issue of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, could help health-care providers better screen patients for STD risks, said Stephanie A. S. Staras, Ph.D., a UF assistant professor of epidemiology and health policy research in the UF College of Medicine.
"If you are choosing high-risk partners, you are much more likely to have an STD, even when we account for your condom-use patterns," said Staras, the lead author of the study. "The theory is simple: You need to have sex with someone who has an STD to get an STD. Based on the prevalence of STDs in the United States, it seems like the public may not fully understand their risk."
The study examined the sexual activities, partner characteristics and STD diagnoses of 412 subjects between the ages of 15 and 24. Among the subjects whose partners were categorized as high-risk, half were diagnosed with an STD. By comparison, about 40 percent of the young adults whose own behaviors were labeled as high-risk were diagnosed with an STD.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 19 million people in the United States contract STDs each year. About half of them are between the ages of 15 and 24.
Health-care providers often ask patients about their own sexual behaviors, but inquiring only about a person's own behaviors may cause some patients to slip through the cracks, Staras said. For example, some subjects in the study reported very low-risk behaviors but were having sex with very high-risk partners.
Adding a few simple questions about partner characteristics during STD screenings could help providers catch
|Contact: April Frawley Birdwell|
University of Florida