Why is it that sexually transmitted infections – or STIs – continue to be a problem among teens and young adults? It’s not a question of whether teens are having sex. By 12th 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.
Young people aged 15-24 represent only a quarter of the sexually active population. Yet they carry almost half of all STIs out there. In fact, 1 in 2 sexually active teens and young adults will get an STI before they are 25. But only 12% of sexually active teens and young adults get tested – which means a person with an STI may not know they are carrying an infection.
STIs don’t always show symptoms. It’s possible to carry and spread an infection even if you feel completely healthy. So, it’s very important to get tested if you are sexually active – not only to prevent the spreading of these infections but also because untreated STIs can add up to serious health problems, like infertility (the inability to have a baby) or pelvic inflammatory disease, which could land you in the hospital.
Although STIs can be scary and embarrassing at times, we know they are not uncommon. The good news is that they can usually be cured or treated. If you’re having sex, protect yourself by using condoms and getting tested for STIs. If you feel uncomfortable talking with your doctor about your sexual health, keep in mind that your few moments of feeling uncomfortable are outweighed by the benefit of addressing a potential health problem early on. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about actions you can take to safeguard your sexual health.