Many people seeking family planning services are in stable, mutually faithful, long-term relationships and so face little risk of getting an STI. Some clients may be at high risk for STIs, however, or have an STI now. Clients who might benefit most from discussion of STI risk include those who do not have steady partners, unmarried clients, and anyone, married or unmarried, who asks or expresses concern about STIs or HIV or that her or his partner may have other partners.
The risk of acquiring an STI, including HIV, depends on a person’s behavior, the behavior of that person’s sexual partner or partners, and how common those diseases are in the community. By knowing what STIs are common locally, a health care provider can better help a client assess her or his own risk.
Understanding their own risk for HIV and other STIs helps people decide how to protect themselves and others. People are often the best judges of their own STI risk, especially when they are told what behaviors and situations can increase risk.
Sexual behavior that can increase exposure to STIs includes:
- Sex with a partner who has STI symptoms
- Sex with a partner who has recently been diagnosed with or treated for an STI
- Sex with more than one partner—the more partners, the more risk
- Sex with a partner who has sex with others and does not always use condoms
- Sex without a condom with almost any new partner in a community where many people have STIs
In certain situations people tend to change sexual partners often, to have many partners, or to have a partner who has other partners. All of these behaviors increase the risk of STI transmission. This includes people who:
- Have sex in exchange for money, food, gifts, shelter, or favors
- Move to another area for work, or travel often for work, such as truck drivers
- Have no established long-term sexual relationship, as is common among sexually active adolescents and young adults
- Are the sexual partners of these people