Why do young people, including college students, have high rates of STIs?
A Half of all STI cases in the United States are accounted for by young people. Contributing factors may include the following:
• College students underestimate their risk of STIs and HIV. Although students may know about STIs, they often believe the risks do not apply to them. One study of students with a history of STIs showed that more than half had unprotected sex while they were infected, and 25% of them continued to have sex without ever informing their partner(s).
Why do young people, including college students, have high rates of STIs? Photo Gallery
• Risky sexual behavior is common. One study of college students found that fewer than half used condoms consistently and one-third had had 10 or more sex partners. Another study found that 19% of male students and 33% of female students had consented to sexual intercourse simply because they felt awkward refusing. Nearly half of young adults are sexually active by age 18 (more than 95% by age 25), but they are not yet in long-term monogamous relationships; they are more likely to have more than one partner over time and to have a partner with an STI.
• Alcohol and drug use play an important role. Between one-third and one-half of college students report participating in sexual activity as a direct result of being intoxicated. Students who binge drink are more likely to have multiple partners, use condoms inconsistently, and delay seeking treatment for STIs than students who drink little or no alcohol. Sexual assaults occur more frequently when either the perpetrator or the victim has been drinking. A 2013 study corroborated that both frequent drinking and binge drinking were associated with risky sexual behavior among individuals with HIV, especially women and gay or bisexual men.
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