Risky sexual behavior
Risky sexual behavior is the description of the activity that will increase the probability that a person engaging in sexual activity with another person infected with a sexually transmitted infection will be infected or become pregnant, or make a partner pregnant. It can mean two similar things: the behavior itself, the description of the partner's behavior. The behavior could be unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse. The partner could be a nonexclusive partner, HIV-positive, or an intravenous drug user. Drug use is associated with risky sexual behaviors.
Risky sexual behavior can be:
- Barebacking, i.e. sex without a condom.
- Mouth-to-genital contact.
- Starting sexual activity at a young age.
- Having multiple sex partners.
- Having a high-risk partner, someone who has multiple sex partners or infections.
- Anal sex.
- Sex with a partner who has ever injected drugs.
- Engaging in sex work.
Risky sexual behavior includes unprotected intercourse, multiple sex partners, and illicit drug use. The use of alcohol and illicit drugs greatly increases the risk of gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B, and HIV/AIDS. Trauma from penile-anal sex has been identified as a risky sexual behavior.
North American adolescents can be sexually active yet do not take appropriate precautions to prevent infection or pregnancies. Misconceptions of invulnerability and the practice of ignoring long-term consequences of their behavior tend to promote risky sexual behavior. Risky sexual behaviors can lead to serious consequences both for person and their partner(s). This sometimes includes cervical cancer, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. An association exists between those with a higher incidence of body art (body piercings and tattoos) and risky sexual behavior.
Most Canadian and American adolescents aged 15 to 19 years describe having had sexual intercourse at least one time. In the same population, 23.9% and 45.5% of young, adolescent females describe having sex with two or more sexual partners during the previous year. Of the males in the same population 32.1% of Canadian males had two or more partners and 50.8% of American males also describe a similar experience.
Several factors linked to risky sexual behaviors – inconsistent condom use, alcohol use, polysubstance abuse, depression, lack of social support, recent incarceration, residing with a partner, and exposure to intimate partner violence and childhood sexual abuse – may represent appropriate intervention points to prevent subsequent risky sexual behavior; however, further research is needed to establish the exact causal relationship between these factors and risky sexual behaviors. Sexual health risk reduction can include motivational exercises, assertiveness skills, educational and behavioral interventions. Counseling has been developed and implemented for people with severe mental illness, may improve participants' knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors or practices (including assertiveness skills) and could lead to a reduction in risky sexual behavior.
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