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Understanding the impact of STIs on young adults

In a recent interview, Jill S. Blumenthal, MD, associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego Health, discussed how young adults are impacted by sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Over 25 million STI cases are reported annually, with the number of cases rising over time. Of these infections, approximately half are in patients aged 15 to 24 years. Adolescents are less likely to be aware about the impact of STIs, increasing vulnerability among this population.

The risk of STIs is increased among young, cisgender patients because of hormonal changes that occur during this period. Additionally, young patients don’t always receive the recommended STI tests that adults receive because of a lack of knowledge.

Younger patients may not be used to talking about sexual health with their provider, and these patients are more likely to experience issues with transportation to receive care. These factors make it more challenging for this population to access necessary STI testing.

Blumenthal noted that young patients may also have more than 1 sex partner and won’t always discuss STI testing among one another. These factors further increase the risk of STIs among adolescents compared to adults.

The stigma surrounding STIs is a major risk factor among young patients, impacting their emotional, mental, and physical health. While STIs are common and often easily treated, the stigma surrounding them may cause fear among adolescents. This makes it vital for patients to be able to talk to STIs as another part of their health and well-being.

Blumenthal believes doctors have a responsibility to discuss sexual health with their patients. Patients may feel more comfortable talking about their sexual activity when their providers are sex positive. This includes openly asking patients about sex without judgement and helping them understand sex is part of a healthy life.

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