STD Demographics: Who’s At Risk for STDs?

Anyone can become infected with a sexually transmitted disease, but certain people are at higher risk than others. These groups include gay, bisexual men and young people, as well as those who have sex with different partners.

Who’s Most at Risk for Acquiring STDs?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that every year in the US there are approximately 20 million new sexually transmitted infections. According to their estimates, the majority of newly infected patients are young people aged 15 to 24, accounting for 50% of all infected people.

STDs in Young People

Even though young people represent only 25% of the population that is sexually experienced, they are at highest risk of developing this condition. The reasons for this are biological, behavioral or cultural, or a combination of the three.

Young women and men are heavily affected by these infections. However, women have more serious problems since STDs in young women are often accompanied by long-term health problems. According to estimates, 24,000 women become infertile every year due to undiagnosed sexually transmitted diseases.

But, why is the number of undiagnosed STDs so big with young people?

Young people and adolescents have a variety of barriers to fight when it comes to STI prevention, including:

  • Inability to pay for testing and treatment
  • Lack of insurance
  • Discomfort with services and facilities designed for adult STD patients
  • Concerns about privacy and confidentiality

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in Young Adults and Adolescents

Compared to other age groups, people aged 15 to 24 are most likely to get infected by STDs. Actually, the majority of reported infections occur among people in this age range, especially when it comes to gonorrhea and Chlamydia.


Statistics say that Chlamydia rate among women of this age was 3.043 cases in 100 thousand females, which as an 8.7% decrease from the number reported back in 2012. However, women aged 20-24 years were considered to be at highest risk in 2013, having the highest rate of Chlamydia with 3.621 cases in 100 thousand females.

As for men, Chlamydia cases decreased for 9% for 15-19 years old patients in 2013. At this point, men aged 20-24 were considered to be at highest risk of getting the infection, with 1.325.6 cases in 100 thousand males.


Estimates from 2013 say that women aged 15-19 years are second in the list of high-risk groups when it comes to gonorrhea. There were 459.2 infected females in 100 thousand screened patients.

That same year, women aged 20-24 years were again at the highest risk of developing this infection, with 541.6 cases in 100 thousand screened females.

Men aged 15-19 had a rate of 220.9 cases in 100 thousand males in 2013, while men aged 20-24 years had 459.4 cases in 100 thousand males, which is again the highest rate of gonorrhea in men.

Other STIs in Adolescents and Young Adults

Back in 2011, young adults aged 13-24 actually accounted for 21% of all HIV diagnoses in the US. Even though the number of HIV infected patients is low among adolescents, estimates say that males among 13 to 19 years old make up for more than two thirds of all HIV diagnosed patients.

At this point, the HPV or Human Papillomavirus is the most commonly transmitted STD. Every year, over 14 million people acquire this infection. Nearly every individual who is sexually active gets HPV at least once in their lives.

Syphilis cases increased greatly during the period from 2004 to 2009 in females aged 15-19 years, turning from 1.5 cases to 3.3 cases in every 100 thousand females. During 2006-2009 the number increased from 2.9 to 5.5 cases in every 100 thousand females, while this rate increased only slightly during 2011 to 2013 (from 3.7 to 3.9 cases in every 100 thousand females).

Among men, syphilis was reported to increase from 1.3 to 6 cases in every 100 thousand males during 2002-2009. After four years, in 2013, the rate among males aged 15-19 years increased to 6.4 cases, which is the highest reported rate since 1995.

According to the CDC, one in every six people from 14 to 49 years old suffer from genital herpes.

The Major Risk Factors

The following are the major risk factors that lead to acquiring STIs:

1.   Unprotected Sex

A condom or other method of prevention is not always a guarantee that you will not get infected, but people who do not use these products are at much higher risk of becoming infected.

Other than abstinence, condoms are your best way to prevent STIs.

2.   More Partners

Everyone knows it – multiple partners means increased risk of STDs. The more partners you have, the higher are the chances of being exposed to at least one sexually transmitted disease.

3.   Youth

You may think that young adults are at higher risk of STDs because of their behavior or influence of substances such as alcohol or drugs. Even though this is true, young people actually are biologically more susceptible to the infections than older people, especially females.

The body of a female aged 15-24 is smaller and their cervix is not fully developed. This makes them at higher risk for being infected with gonorrhea, Chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases.

4.   Trading Sex

Every person who trades sex for drugs or money is at high risk of getting an STD. These people cannot really negotiate safe sex and have many different sexual partners. Therefore, they are much more likely to be infected than the general population.

5.   Another STD

Having a sexually transmitted disease makes you susceptible to getting infected with another one. Your body is irritated, blistered or inflamed, which makes it very easy for a pathogen to infect it. In addition, even those who once had an STD and treated it are at higher risk of developing a new infection than those who had not.

Remember – these are only few of the reasons why you may be at increased risk of developing STDs. And even though everyone can be infected, people in these risk groups should pay more attention to their lifestyle and get tested more frequently.

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