Sexual Risk Behaviors: HIV, STD, & Teen Pregnancy Prevention
Many young people engage in sexual risk behaviors that can result in unintended health outcomes. For example, among U.S. high school students surveyed in 20151
- 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 sexually experienced 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 teens at risk for HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and unintended pregnancy:
- Young people (aged 13-24) accounted for an estimated 22% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2015.2
- Among young people (aged 13-24) diagnosed with HIV in 2015, 81% were gay and bisexual males.2
- Half of the nearly 20 million new STDs reported each year were among young people, between the ages of 15 to 24.3
- Nearly 230,000 babies were born to teen girls aged 15–19 years in 2015.4
To reduce sexual risk behaviors and related health problems among youth, schools and other youth-serving organizations can help young people adopt lifelong attitudes and behaviors that support their health and well-being—including behaviors that reduce their risk for HIV, other STDs, and unintended pregnancy. 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 13-64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine medical care.
CDC Programs & Initiatives
CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health addresses HIV, other STDS, and teen pregnancy through
- Data collection and analysis
- Science-based guidance
- Funding to state and local departments of education and national nongovernmental organizations
- Successful state and local interventions
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.
- CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2015. MMWR 2016;65(SS-6).
- CDC. Diagnoses of HIV Infection in the United States and Dependent Areas, 2015. HIV Surveillance Report 2015, vol. 27; November 2016.
- CDC. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2014. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2015
- Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK, et al. Births: Final data for 2015. National Vital Statistics Report Rep 2015; vol 66, no 1. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017.
- Page last reviewed: March 10, 2017
- Page last updated: March 10, 2017
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