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High-Risk Sexual Behavior - Topic Overview

High-risk sexual behavior puts people at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unplanned pregnancy, and being in a sexual relationship before being mature enough to know what makes a healthy relationship. Teens and young adults are at higher risk than adults.

Examples of high-risk sexual behavior include:

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  • Unprotected intercourse without male or female condom use, except in a long-term, single-partner (monogamous) relationship.
  • Unprotected mouth-to-genital contact, except in a long-term monogamous relationship.
  • Early sexual activity, especially before age 18.
  • Having multiple sex partners.
  • Having a high-risk partner (one who has multiple sex partners or other risk factors).
  • Having anal sex or a partner who does, except in a long-term, single-partner (monogamous) relationship.
  • Having sex with a partner who injects or has ever injected drugs.
  • Exchange of sex (sex work) for drugs or money.

Reasons for high-risk behavior

People may have high-risk behavior because they:

  • May not understand the concern about STIs and how they are transmitted.
  • May not talk about safer sex practices with sex partners.
  • Aren't prepared or don't understand how to use protective measures to prevent STIs.
  • May not be aware of symptoms of STIs.
  • May not seek medical care for STI symptoms.
  • May not have access to treatment or be able to afford treatment.
  • May use alcohol and drugs and have sex. Drugs and alcohol impair judgment and make unsafe sex more likely.

For more information see: Sexually Transmitted Infections.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: January 28, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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