STD and HIV Risk Factors
When you think about the risk factors for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), having unprotected sex and sharing needles are probably the first two activities that come to mind. While it’s true that these behaviors are two of the highest risk factors associated with STDs, there are other, less obvious – but equally important – dangers that you should be aware of as well.
Of course, alcohol and drug use can lower your inhibitions, which can lead to poor decision-making that exposes you to STDs. But, there are many other potentially risky behaviors that may seem unrelated to STDs at first glance. These include:
- Becoming sexually active at a relatively young age – This risk factor comes down to a simple matter of math: the longer a person is sexually active, the more likely he or she is to have multiple sexual partners. And, having more partners translates to having more chances to contract and spread STDs. Additionally, a person who is inexperienced or immature may have inaccurate or incomplete knowledge about sexual health and how to properly protect him- or herself from STDs.
- Having friends who engage in risky behaviors – The link between your social circle and your likelihood of getting an STD is meaningful. The people you associate with – and the behaviors they exhibit – can influence your decision-making (either consciously or subconsciously). The bottom line is this: if your friends practice safe sex, you will be more likely to do so as well.
- Having a pre-existing STD – A common misconception is that having one STD provides protection against other STDs. Actually, the opposite is true: having an STD increases the risk of contracting HIV.
- The number of bars and clubs in your neighborhood – Many young people think having plenty of nightlife opportunities close to home is a good thing. However, research indicates that the prevalence of STDs increases along with the number of drinking holes located nearby.
- Getting married at a very young age (applies to females only) – This risk factor may seem counterintuitive because conventional logic associates marriage with monogamy, which helps to prevent STDs. But, studies show that girls who get married at a young age are much more likely to contract STDs than their unmarried (and sexually active) counterparts. One reason may be that a young married girl may continue to reside with her family, leaving her husband free to have sex with multiple partners. Then, when the girl has unprotected sex with her husband (which is the norm among married couples), she will be at risk of contracting any STDs that he was previously exposed to.
Protecting yourself against STDs is one of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being. One of the best ways to do so is to become knowledgeable about your sexual health and how you can maintain it, especially considering the many ways in which STDs can be spread that aren’t readily apparent.
If you have questions about STDs or would like to be tested, you are encouraged to consult with a physician at South Tampa Immediate Care, and you do not need an appointment to do so. Our walk-in clinic is conveniently located on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, FL.