Many young people engage in sexual risk behaviors that can result in unintended health outcomes. For example, among U.S. high school students surveyed:
• 41% had ever had sexual intercourse;
• 30% had had sexual intercourse during the previous 3 months, and, of these;
• 43% did not use a condom the last time they had sex;
• 14% did not use any method to prevent pregnancy;
• 21% had drunk alcohol or used drugs before last sexual intercourse;
• Only 10% of all students have ever been tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV);*
• CDC data show that lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students are at substantial risk for serious health outcomes.
Sexual risk behaviors place youth at risk for HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancy:
• Young people (aged 13-24) accounted for an estimated 21% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2016;
• Among young people diagnosed with HIV, 81% were gay and bisexual males; • Half of the 20 million new STDs reported each year were among young people, between the ages of 15 to 24;
• Nearly 210,000 babies were born to teen girls aged 15–19 years in 2016.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy calls for all Americans to be educated about HIV. This includes knowing how HIV is transmitted and prevented, and knowing which behaviors place individuals at greatest risk for infection. HIV awareness and education should be universally integrated into all educational environments.
* CDC recommends all adolescents and adults get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine medical care.
Abstinence from vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse is the only 100% effective way to prevent HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy. The correct and consistent use of male latex condoms can reduce the risk of STD transmission, including HIV infection. However, no protective method is 100% effective, and condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any STD or pregnancy.